HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) Vijay Singh took the pressure off his shaky putting game with solid driving and pinpoint short-iron play.
Hitting it close on hole after hole, Singh shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Buick Classic, the final PGA Tour event before the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills.
Singh, seeking his third victory in the tournament, played his final nine holes the front nine on the Westchester Country Club course in 6-under 30 to take a one-stroke lead over Fredrik Jacobson.
''I've been hitting the ball really well the last few weeks, but the putter has been letting me down,'' Singh said. ''I hit a bunch of shots close, and had a lot of tap-in birdies. ... From 3-4 feet you can't pick too many bad lines.''
David Frost, the 1992 winner on the hilly, tree-lined course, opened with a 66, and Fred Couples topped a large group at 67. Ernie Els, a two-time Buick Classic champion coming off a victory Sunday in the Memorial, was five strokes back at 68 in a large group that included Davis Love III, David Toms and Padraig Harrington.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson opened with a 69 in an event that features 25 of the top 30 players on the money list.
''There's a lot of birdies out there,'' Mickelson said. ''I just had a hard time getting the ball close to the hole. Fortunately, I didn't make any big mistakes.''
Singh had nine birdies eight from inside 10 feet and one bogey to finish a stroke off the course record set by Dan Sikes in 1967 and matched by Jim Wright (1976) and Peter Jacobsen (1982). The big Fijian, the tour leader with three victories and earnings of $4,448,861, birdied six of his final eight holes.
''I drove the ball really straight. I attacked the course from the get-go,'' Singh said. ''If you hit the driver well, you have a lot of wedges and sand wedges into the greens. I was very relaxed and let my swing happen. I didn't force anything.''
Jacobson one-putted the first six greens in his morning round in perfect scoring conditions, highlighted by a 60-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fifth hole.
''It was roller coaster. It went up two tiers,'' he said. ''It was straight on line. It's very rare that you get the pace and everything right on a putt like that, but once it was on the way there I thought I wouldn't be surprised of it goes in.''
The Swede has four top-10 finishes in 12 starts this year, his first full season on the PGA Tour. Last year, he won three times on the European tour and had four top 10s in eight PGA Tour appearances.
''I really took on the par 4s that were a little bit shorter,'' Jacobsen said. ''I tried to go with the driver today because I practiced the wedges so hard and started hitting good shots in the beginning. I wanted to give myself a few more of those.''
The 44-year-old Frost won the last of his 10 PGA Tour titles in 1997.
''I'm just trying to enjoy the game,'' Frost said. ''I still love playing, and love trying to figure it out. It's nice to be on a course that you've won on before.''
WILMINGTON, Del. Annika Sorenstam got mad and finished with two birdies. Grace Park got a good break and then ended her round with two bogeys. Both wound up chasing Jennifer Rosales, who played a steady hand Thursday with a 5-under 66 in the LPGA Championship.
Rosales, who picked up her first LPGA victory last month in Atlanta, took advantage of the par 5s and never came seriously close to a bogey at difficult DuPont Country Club to take a one-shot lead over Karen Stupples, Gloria Park and Chiharu Yamaguchi.
''I hit a lot of fairways. That was the key,'' Rosales said. ''I missed a lot of putts out there. I kept putting and putting until I made some, and kept going.''
It took her to her first 18-hole lead on the LPGA Tour at a major, no less.
But the 25-year-old Filipino, who won the NCAA title as a freshman at Southern Cal, has been around long enough to know that doesn't mean much, especially with Sorenstam and Park only two shots behind at 68.
Sorenstam birdied two of her first three holes to make her presence felt quickly on a steamy day at DuPont, but she could have unraveled after chopping up the par-4 seventh, her 16th hole.
After missing the fairway so far to the right she was completely blocked by trees, Sorenstam gambled by trying to punch a 7-iron from an uphill lie in deep grass, under the branches and around a tree with hopes of getting it into the bunker some 120 yards away. Instead, she advanced it only 40 yards and had to power a sand wedge over a pine to the front of the green, leading to bogey that dropped her to 1 under.
Next up was the tough par-3 eighth, a 191-yard hole with the hole cut back right on a green that slopes severely in that direction.
''I was a little fired up at the time,'' Sorenstam said. She was so steamed that her caddie suggested one less club, a 6-iron, to compensate for her adrenaline. She stuck with the 5-iron, and hit it to 4 feet below the cup for birdie.
''Just one of those great shots,'' she said. ''That was a key hole, and to finish with birdie made it sweeter.''
Her final birdie was no less spectacular. From 238 yards in the fairway, Sorenstam went for the green with ''the hardest 4-wood I've ever hit in my life.''
It climbed up the slope and stopped 30 feet below the hole, and Sorenstam was so thrilled that she deadpanned to her caddie, ''I wish it was closer.''
She two-putted for birdie and a 68, leaving her in good position after one round.
Park, who lost to Sorenstam in a playoff last year at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, also liked her position just not the way she finished.
Tied for the lead at 5 under, she hit her tee shot on the par-5 16th so far to the right that Park worried she might not find it. It was spotted in a drainage ditch, allowing her a free drop, and she was fortunate to hack it out under the trees and into the fairway with a 7-iron.
Park still had a 4-iron into the green, but she handled that with ease and nearly walked off the birdie.
But she punched a 6-iron into the bunker on No. 17 and made bogey, then pulled a 4-iron left of the 18th green, chipped to 10 feet and dropped to her knees when the par putt hung on the edge of the cup.
''This is not the finish I wanted to have,'' Park said. ''I'm disappointed and frustrated, but that's golf. That's major championships. You can't miss a shot and expect to save par every time.''
Even so, Park likes her position going into the second round, and the Kraft Nabisco Championship winner looks capable of adding the second leg of the Grand Slam.
''I'm not leading, but I'm right there,'' she said.
Se Ri Pak, a two-time winner of the LPGA, and Cristie Kerr were in a large group at 69. Juli Inkster birdied the last two holes to join Beth Daniel among those at 70.
Rosales did most of her work over the final 10 holes, making birdie on all three of the par 5s. She hit wedge inside 10 feet on the first two (Nos. 9 and 11), and after belting a drive on the 465-yard 16th, she fired a 3-iron to the back of the green and two-putted from 35 feet.
''If I keep hitting the way I was today, I could get up there,'' she said. ''I want to just give myself chances for the weekend. We'll see what happens.''
Divots: Suzy Whaley, the Connecticut club pro who qualified for the Greater Hartford Open last year on the PGA Tour, had an ace on the 158-yard 17th hole with a 6-iron. Whaley qualified for this tournament through an LPGA teaching pro championship. ... The greens have not been getting rave reviews from the players. They are soft and bumpy, and footprints are evident. ''If you hit a good putt, it bounces up,'' Rosales said. ... Karrie Webb was near the lead until taking three shots to get out of the rough and trees to make double bogey on No. 16, and following that with a bogey. She shot 1-over 72. ... JoAnne Carner, 65, an LPGA rookie the year Sorenstam was born, shot 74.
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