Kelly finished in a share of fifth place at last week's Masters
(US unless stated)
-8 J Kelly
-6 E Els (RSA)
-5 J Coceres (Arg), S Leaney (Aus)
-4 F Funk, S Cink, K Na, B Weekley, JP Hayes
Jerry Kelly hit an eight-under-par 63 to take a two-shot lead at the end of the first round of the Verizon Heritage tournament in South Carolina.
American Kelly made two bogeys but 10 birdies as he built an early advantage.
Ernie Els led the chasing pack after an impressive 65, with Jose Coceres and Stephen Leaney back at five under.
Masters winner Zach Johnson carded a one-under round of 70, but Britain's Justin Rose withdrew with a back injury before the start of the opening round.
JP Hayes, who had been alongside Els at six under, dropped down the leaderboard with a double bogey at the 17th.
He finished alongside Fred Funk and Stewart Cink on four under.
World number five Els, who failed to make the cut in Augusta last week, was relieved to find some form.
"To start off well and feel like I'm in the tournament was a nice feeling," he said. "I hit the ball solidly and felt really good, a lot better than last week.
"I don't know if I was over-trained but I just wasn't there mentally at Augusta."
Kelly, 40, who tied for fifth at the Masters, said: "I had a lot of short putts and I made some 20-footers, which was a good combination."
Australian US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and defending champion Aaron Baddeley were level with Johnson on one under.