Pettersson takes command at Kiawah

Swede Carl Pettersson became a US citizen in January.

Carl Pettersson flawlessly put himself in position to improve a mediocre record in the majors.

KIAWAH ISLAND - Swede Carl Pettersson flawlessly put himself in position to improve a mediocre record in the majors, spearheading a glut of low scoring to surge into a one-shot lead in the PGA Championship opening round on Thursday.

The 34-year-old, who became a US citizen in January, fired a sizzling six-under-par 66 in relatively calm, sunny conditions at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort to take control of the season's final major.

Former US Open winner Rory McIlroy, long-hitting American Gary Woodland, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Swede Alex Noren charged into contention with 67s while four-times champion Tiger Woods was happy after opening with a six-birdie 69.

Defending champion Keegan Bradley, 1991 winner John Daly and Dutchman Joost Luiten, who briefly led at eight under before bogeying his last four holes, were among a group of eight players who carded 68s at Kiawah, where ocean breezes strengthened later in the day.

Forty-four players broke par on the longest layout to stage a major championship, making the most of conditions softened by heavy rain earlier in the week. The average score was 73.42.

"I played really good," Pettersson told reporters after breaking 70 for the first time in 21 rounds at the PGA Championship with an nerveless six-birdie display on a hot and humid day.

"Getting off to a good start was the key to the round. There really wasn't much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up.

"The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play, hitting a lot of fairways, hitting a lot of greens and making a few putts. It was a great day for me."

Pettersson, who won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Heritage Classic in April, has missed 10 cuts in the majors while recording only two top-10 finishes.

"I haven't contended that much in majors ... but I'd love to have a chance and see what happens," said the Swede, who is bidding to become the 17th different player in a row to claim one of golf's grand slam titles.

"You see different people, and some of your friends, winning majors, and that motivates you. Long way to go, but I'm thrilled with the start, and we'll see what happens."