(Reuters) - Cameron Champ has quickly earned a reputation as the longest driver on the PGA Tour and with one that measured 346 yards on Thursday shot a seven-under-par 65 to take the early lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
Champ, who holds a one-stroke lead over fellow American Cameron Tringale, hit an average drive of 343 yards on the secondary Web.Com Tour last year, 10 yards more than the second-ranked player.
He finished sixth on the secondary circuit money list last year to earn promotion to the PGA Tour and used the fastest clubhead speed on tour to generate an average drive of 328 yards at the first event of the season recently -- which is nine yards more than tour leader Rory McIlroy managed last year.
Champ showed his power on the 18th hole on the rain-softened Country Club of Jackson course on Thursday when he smashed his drive 346 yards before flicking a wedge to tap-in distance to cap off his day with a closing birdie.
Despite his obvious power, Champ also showed he could dial down that part of his game, depending on the conditions.
"Obviously with the (damp) conditions we had today ... one thing led to another, started making some putts, got a key up- and-down on 16 and finished with a nice birdie on 18," the 23-year-old Californian told Golf Channel.
This week's PGA Tour tournament is being contested by rookies and journeyman with the world's leading players either at the World Golf Championships event in China or enjoying a week off.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)