Hatalsky, Fernandez, Thorpe share lead at 7 under

Updated: May 13, 2005, 10:06 PM ET
Associated Press

MILTON, Fla. -- Jim Thorpe, Morris Hatalsky and Vincente Fernandez each shot a 7-under 63 and shared the first-round lead at the Blue Angels Classic on Friday.

Dick Mast, Bruce Lietzke and Hajime Meshiai were a stroke off the pace at Moors Golf Club in the event named for the Navy's famed precision flying team based at nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Dave Barr, John Harris and Peter Jacobsen were at 5 under, and defending champion Tom Jenkins was among 13 players bunched at 66.

Fifty-four of the 78 players in the field were under par in the opening round.

"If you shot a couple of pars today you lost ground," Thorpe said.

The 6,832-yard, par-70 layout has short rough, and the clear, calm conditions put a premium on putting and contributed to the low scoring. The tournament record of 17 under, set by 2003 champion Bob Gilder, might be in jeopardy.

"There's no advantage to the big hitters," Lietzke said. "It will be a close tournament with the hot putters grouping together at the top."

Fernandez took a recommendation from his coach, Alfredo Nachmann, and opened his putting stance for better balance. The result was birdie putts of 16 and 22 feet. However, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 18 that would have given him the outright lead.

"He didn't like the way I was standing," Fernandez said. "I haven't been putting this way for a long, long time."

Fernandez overcame a bad start that included slicing his first tee shot 40 yards into a water hazard. After taking a one-stroke penalty, he rallied to save par after hitting a 5-iron to within 4 feet.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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