WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Playing the round of the day at Southwood Golf & Country Club, Derek Chang shot an opening-day 64 to head into the second round of the 100th edition of The Players Cup with a two-stroke lead.

“I haven’t done anything like this all year,” said the 111th-ranked player on the Order of Merit. “The last couple events I’ve started slow and had to battle back to try to make the cut, which is never fun, so this is massive and a big step going forward.”

The Dallas, Texas, native seemed to make everything he looked at Thursday morning, including multiple putts over 30 feet on his way to the best score of his Mackenzie Tour career. 

“The putter made more feet worth of putts today than it has all year,” said the 29-year old. “There were a bunch of tough pins that were tough to get close to, so it was nice to make birdie even when I hit it to the middle of the green.”

While Chang has shot rounds of 66-69-69 in the second rounds at each of his past three events, opening rounds of 74 at the HFX Pro-Am, 76 at the 1932byBateman Open and 74 at the ATB Financial Classic led to three consecutive missed cuts.

“I was down on myself, but every day I’ve been trying to work on something, and I’ve been trying to stay positive,” said Chang, who made eight birdies and no bogeys Thursday. “I felt pretty good the past few days since I got to Southwood, so I’ve had a good feel for the greens, and it was nice to turn it around.”

Though his preparation for the event was similar to past weeks, he says that finding a way to make the practice round matter more with a few friends helped get his mind tournament ready.

“I played a money game on Tuesday and Wednesday for a couple bucks, and that helped me get into the practice round a little bit more,” said Chang, whose best finish this year was a tie for 28th at the Windsor Championship. “The consequences of the shots matter a bit more, so that helped me prepare a little bit.”

Coming off a tie for 30th in Calgary, which included a first-round 63, Canadian Riley Wheeldon finished with an eagle on his final hole of the day to shoot 66 and is tied for second alongside Grady Brame and Brad Miller.

Wheeldon is in search of his third Canada Life Canadian Player of the Week award and first since the Windsor Championship.