<
>

A 63 quickly lifts Lewis' spirits

10/8/2004

LAS VEGAS -- J.L. Lewis is having somewhat of a down year
after the best season of his career on the PGA Tour. He's not happy
about it, but a few of the guys just behind him in the Michelin
Championship at Las Vegas wouldn't mind being in his position at
all.

Lewis shot a 9-under 63 Friday to take the lead at 14 under
midway through the Las Vegas tournament, where a player making his
pro debut and a veteran struggling to become exempt once again are
only a shot behind.

On another windless day in the desert, Lewis took a one-shot
lead in relation to par over Chez Reavie, Olin Browne and Alex
Cejka with a round that included an eagle, six birdies and no
bogeys on a friendly Bear's Best course.

"I didn't do anything stupid so that's really good for me this
year," Lewis said.

The 44-year-old Lewis, who won last year and finished in the top
30 to make the Tour Championship, is 97th on the money list despite
having better stats than he did the year before. Mistakes have cost
him dearly, and he's still trying to figure out why.

"It's just kind of a hard game to explain," Lewis said. "I
don't know what's going on."

Lewis didn't find things too hard in the second round, where he
hit 15 greens and took only 25 putts to take the lead. He chipped
in for eagle on the 12th hole after hitting a 7-iron over the green
on the par-5 and followed it with a birdie on the next hole before
making a final birdie on the par-5 17th.

While Lewis is puzzled about his year, Reavie and Browne would
trade places with him any time.

Reavie, a 22-year-old who has yet to make an official dollar as
a pro, and Browne, who lost his exempt status this year for the
first time since 1996, both had different reasons to be happy to be
a shot behind.

Reavie, who won the 2001 Public Links and played in the Masters
and U.S. Open as an amateur, shot a 64 at the home TPC at Summerlin
course to reach 13 under, capping his day with a spectacular finish
to put him in contention.

Reavie almost made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole, leaving the
ball just off the lip, then followed it by stuffing a 9-iron from
161 yards on the final hole for eagle.

"Obviously, I was just trying to get it close," Reavie said.
"It was a great way to finish."

Reavie, who played at Arizona State, had enough on his mind in
his first tournament as a pro to think about possibly winning.

"I'm trying not to think about that," he said. "I'm just
going to try and shoot as low as I can."

Browne, who shot a 64 at Bear's Best, got in the tournament at
the last minute because another player withdrew. He came to Las
Vegas without a guaranteed spot, hoping that enough players would
drop out so he could get in.

It's an unfamiliar position for a player who has two tour wins
and has prided himself on a steady career.

"When you don't get in it's very, very frustrating," Browne
said. "My schedule has been made up by other people, not me, this
year."

Browne has managed to get in enough tournaments to make $564,900
this year. That puts him 120th on the money list, and he could
pretty much wrap up an exemption next year with a high showing
here.

"It's a difficult situation to be in," Browne said of not
being guaranteed spots. "I hope I'm not in it much longer."

Divots
Reavie has had previous success in Las Vegas. He won a
junior tournament in the gambling town, then made a putt on the
final hole to help Arizona State win the Las Vegas Intercollegiate
tourney. ... Cjeka shot a 65 on the Summerlin course. ... David
Duval continued to make progress in his comeback, shooting a 68 to
get to 8 under. ... The tournament cut is Saturday.