120 of 144 players break par
LAS VEGAS -- Harrison Frazar took some time off to rest and find a way to make golf fun again. For the second week in a row it paid off with a share of the first-round lead, though he had to share it with six others in the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas.
Frazar shot a bogey-free 64 Thursday to take his place among a crowded group at the top of the leaderboard at 8 under. Seven players shared the lead on a day when perfect playing conditions and a lack of wind made the three courses used in the tournament easy targets.
Two of those players, Danny Ellis and Jason Bohn, shot 63s, but their scores were on the par-71 TPC Canyons course while the others played the par-72 TPC Summerlin and Bear's Best layouts. Also tied at 8 under were Scott Verplank, Kent Jones, Steve Lowery and Billy Mayfair.
A tournament that traditionally gives up some of the lowest scores on the PGA Tour was shortened from 90 to 72 holes this year, but that didn't stop players from making their usual assault on par.
Of the 144 players in the field, 120 broke par, and 42 were within three shots of the lead.
"It was kind of like playing in a vacuum," Verplank said. "If you execute good, you're going to get good results."
Frazar was one of those who executed well, shooting 32 on both sides while never sniffing a bogey. He reached the par-4 15th with a driver and made a 40-footer for eagle, then followed it with a birdie on the next hole, a par-5 to get to 8 under.
Frazar has won $1.1 million this year, but most of it came by the end of February and he has struggled since with his game. He felt tired and tried taking off every other week during the summer to solve his woes but it was to no avail.
Finally, Frazar took nearly a month off before returning last week and shooting a 65 to open the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. He didn't play well on the weekend, but his game was back on in the desert.
"I just started from ground zero," Frazar said. "I took three weeks off and went home and didn't touch a club for two weeks."
The rest did more for Frazar's attitude than anything else.
"I'm interested in being here," he said. "I'm fresh and rested. I'm happy to be here and I don't feel like I'm going through the motions."
Verplank was also happy to be in this gambling city, just a few days removed from the American Express Championship in Ireland. Verplank has been nursing a serious foot problem all year and, after it flared up in Ireland, was not going to play here.
But instead of hobbling down the fairways Thursday he was walking them easily on his way to a 64 that included nine birdies and only one bogey. Verplank didn't miss a fairway all day and had two kick-in putts for birdie.
"I really made it a nice, calm enjoyable 8 under par," he said.
Ellis was probably the most unlikely name on the leaderboard. He's struggling to retain the card he won in qualifying school last year, and is 150th on the money list with $347,036.
On and off the tour for the last three years, Ellis missed seven of his last 10 cuts, including his last three.
"I've been playing good but I've just been making a lot of bogeys," he said. "Today I made a lot of birdies. I hit it close and gave myself chances."<
The tournament was reduced from 90 holes this year so players who were in Ireland would have time to come back and play. But the cut won't be made until after Saturday's third round, and players will play with amateurs until Sunday's final round. ... David Duval continued to try and play his way back into contention with a 67 that included an eagle on the par-5 12th at Bear's Best. ... Phil Mickelson, the biggest name in the field, shot a 68, also at Bear's Best.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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