Irwin, Barr trail by one stroke after first round

Updated: April 23, 2004, 6:55 PM ET
Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Gil Morgan shot a 7-under-par 65 Friday for a one-stroke lead over Hale Irwin and Dave Barr in the first round of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

Craig Stadler, seeking his second win of the Champions Tour season, was at 67. Bruce Fleisher, also looking for his second win, was among five players at 68.

This was the 22nd straight round of par or better for Morgan, who won the SBC Classic last month. He had eight birdies and one bogey on the island layout in the middle of the Savannah River.

"I felt like I had a chance to birdie every hole," Morgan said. "Of course, you like to think that every day, but today it seemed feasible."

At this pace, the winner is almost certain to better the 10-under 206 total posted in 2003 by defending champion Bruce Lietzke. The Legends, which spawned the senior circuit in 1978, had been played in four different cities and on eight different courses before coming to Savannah last year.

"Maybe we know the course a little better," Morgan said. "Also, the course is faster this year. Last year, we had a lot of rain. So that might account for these low scores, too."

Irwin, playing for the first time in four weeks, found it helpful to be in the same threesome with Morgan.

"All I had to do was look at Gil, and I had an automatic goal," he said. "But then I had to get back to hitting shots that count."

Barr cited a new putter for his success. He had been using the same putter since 1971 but didn't feel he had been making his share of putts lately.

"I'm not going to throw the old one away, that's for sure," said Barr, who is bidding for his second win since joining the tour two years ago.

With the new putter, Barr birdied the final three holes with putts of 25, 35 and 18 feet to complete a round of seven birdies and one bogey.

Tony Jacklin and Bill Rogers had a 10-under 62 in the team competition. The Legends had been strictly a team competition until 2002. Players in the two-man better-ball competition play for unofficial money now.

Divots
Some players were critical of No. 6, listed as a 438-yard par-4, which has been altered since last year. "They moved the fairway bunker a bit left, but they moved the tee box back 40 yards," Barr said. "So, you're now a 4-iron away from a green designed for an 8- or 7-iron." Gary Koch hit what he felt was a good drive and was still about 190 yards from the center of the green. "I would call the green severe for the length of the hole," Koch said. "Is that diplomatic enough?" ... Lietzke, recovering from a sore shoulder that has sidelined him most of the season, shot a 70.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press