The Presidents Cup is on centre stage, but Sam Saunders stole the spotlight on Thursday afternoon in America.

Saunders, playing 1,500 kilometres away at Atlantic Beach Country Club in Florida, fired a 59 during the first round of the Tour Championship. Saunders, who calls Atlantic Beach home, finished in style with birdies on his last six holes.

Saunders just missed out in securing his US PGA Tour during the regular season, finishing 129th in the FedEx Cup standings (the top-125 get full-time status). Through the first three legs of the Tour Finals, Saunders has struggled, with a T-40 at the Boise Open and missing the cut at the DAP Championship. He entered the Tour Championship in 24th on the Finals moneylist, with the top-25 earning their card. In short, his round came at a time when he needed it most.

Speaking of timing, this week is the one year anniversary of Arnold Palmer’s passing. Saunders, who is Palmer’s grandson, has been extremely vocal about carrying on the legacy of the King, especially when it involves the Bay Hill Invitational.

“I’d like to think, I hope, we can continue to make sure the tournament has a good field every year and that we can continue to build it the way my grandfather would have wanted,” Saunders told Golf Digest. “I know a good deal of that responsibility falls on me now.”

Saunders will enter the second round with a three-shot lead over Matt Atkins and Steve Wheatcroft. The best-placed Australian is Sydney’s Brett Drewitt, five shots behind.