Lewis takes lead with 10-under 62

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Despite missing two easy birdie putts at the end of the round, J.L. Lewis didn't fret over what could have been and took his 10-under 62 for what it was his best start ever on the PGA Tour and a two-shot lead Thursday in the Funai Classic at Disney.

Lewis putted for birdie on every hole and made 11 of them on the Magnolia course to match his career-low round. The only frustration was a 12-footer that lipped out on his 16th hole and a 5-footer that missed badly on the 18th.

''I made most of them, so I'm pretty happy with it,'' Lewis said with slight resignation.

Scores are always so low at Disney that hardly anyone is satisfied with what they shot.

Vijay Singh got off to a solid start in his bid to win his fourth straight PGA Tour event, which would push him over the $10 million mark this year. He had a bogey-free 66, then retreated to the practice range in balmy sunshine and spent a few hours searching for the slightest imperfections in his swing.

''It was a fighting round today. I managed to get it around,'' Singh said after his 17th round in the 60s in 21 trips around the Disney courses. He has never shot over par in the six years he has played at Disney.

Two-time Disney champion John Huston, Mark Hensby and Scott Hend each had a 64, while two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal was among those at 65.

Huston never saw this round coming. He was putting so badly just 10 minutes before his tee time that he changed to a cross-handed grip, made a few putts and decided to give it a try.

''I made three or four in a row and I went with it,'' said Huston, who took only 23 putts in a bogey-free round.

Hensby had such a simple time that he couldn't remember where he made his birdies.

The scores were so low on the Magnolia and Palm courses that 86 players shot in the 60s and only 17 players in the 144-man field were over par. It helped that the sun was out, the breeze was mild and the turf was soft.

Lewis made his round sound just that simple.

''Nobody can explain golf, so I'm not going to try,'' he said. ''I just try to hit each shot the best I can and get myself in a situation where hopefully, I'll have a chance to do something good on Sunday. That's all you can do.''

It worked just fine Thursday.

Lewis birdied his first four holes to establish his name atop the leaderboard. He birdied five of the first six holes on his back nine to separate himself from the other early starters, then waited to see if anyone could catch him.

Hend got to 9 under before dropping a few shots on the back nine. Everyone else just tried to keep the scores respectable at Disney, that means something in the mid-60s as they work their way through the week.

''You just have to keep the momentum going,'' Huston said.

Singh has three more tournaments to crack the $10 million mark, and it looks like he'll have no trouble doing that. Other players have smaller financial goals that mean just as much.

Hend is 132nd on the money list and needs a good week as he tries to finish the year in the top 125 to keep his card. Olazabal is also in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card for the first time since he joined in 2000. His five-year exemption from winning the Masters runs out this year.

The Spaniard is 148th on the money list, which explains why he is playing Disney for the first time.

''I'm just here to give myself the best possible chance,'' he said. ''We'll see what happens.''

SONOMA, Calif. Tom Kite shot an 8-under 64, one stroke ahead of Dana Quigley for the first-round lead at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Kite and Quigley played outstanding first rounds amid the standing water at Sonoma Golf Course on the first day of the tour's season-ending event. The winner gets $435,000 and the winner of the season-long Schwab Cup competition takes home a $1 million annuity.

Hale Irwin, in third place with a 6-under 66, leads the Schwab Cup standings by 39 points over Craig Stadler, who matched Morris Hatalsky and Jose Maria Canizares in fourth place at 4 under.

While Quigley played bogey-free golf and Kite cruised with two exceptional long putts, Irwin struggled to keep up, making six par saves. Players praised the revamped Sonoma course, but bemoaned the standing water still left over from Tuesday's rainstorm.

MADRID, Spain Julien Clement of Switzerland birdied five of the last seven holes for a 7-under 64 and the first-round lead at the Madrid Open.

Johan Edfors of Sweden and Terry Price of Australia were tied for second, two shots behind.

Colin Montgomerie bogeyed two of the first three holes, but three straight birdies starting at the 11th helped him finish at 3 under for the day. Trevor Immelman, taken to the hospital Wednesday after an allergic reaction to a bee sting, was at 67.

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