Doyle's 64 has him in front at Commerce Bank
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Allen Doyle had nine birdies -- six on putts of less than 10 feet -- in a 7-under 64 on Friday that gave him a one-stroke lead over Gil Morgan after the first round of the Commerce Bank Championship.
Doyle was the oldest entrant in last week's U.S. Open and missed the cut by a stroke. The 57-year-old started his round Friday with one of his two bogeys, then started firing at the pins at the 7,011-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park.
He couldn't resist the opportunity for some word play when asked to compare the Open, played last week at the treacherous Winged Foot Golf Club, and this Champions Tour event on the county-owned public facility.
"In a way, this was a walk in the park after Winged Foot," he said.
Vying for his second straight tour win, Morgan matched Doyle's six birdies from inside 10 feet. He won the Allianz Championship in Iowa the first weekend in June for his 24th career title. The next event was rained out near Boston and the tour was off last week because of the U.S. Open.
"I didn't drive it very well today, but I made some putts and I could have made a few more," said Morgan, who is fourth on the money list and has finished in the top 10 in his last three tournaments. "I made a few birdies out of the rough today, so it's possible."
That wasn't the case last week when Winged Foot's graduated rough offered little chance to correct errant tee shots.
"You have a pretty good mind-set coming from a place where the fairways were that narrow and the greens that tough," Doyle said. "You don't beat yourself up quite as much here. Even if you leave the fairway you have to remind yourself you can make a par."
Doyle bogeyed his final hole at Winged Foot and missed playing the weekend because of that.
"I got things signed by Phil and Tiger, so I accomplished a couple of things," Doyle said, drawing a laugh. "People saying you played well doesn't do too much for me, but it seemed to excite some of my buddies. On 18 I executed the shot the way I wanted to, but it went a foot too far and I had no chance to get up and down."
That wasn't the case on Friday. The opening bogey -- his drive found a hole in the first cut of rough and he had to lay up -- was a distant memory after four straight birdies, the first three on putts of 8, 7 and 1 foot. His second bogey was on the par-4 15th after a poor tee shot, but he came right back with his final birdie of the day, from 12 feet on the 178-yard par-3.
"You can never get too excited or too down," said Doyle, who has two top 10 finishes this season, including a fifth behind Morgan in Iowa. He has finished in the top 10 in this event five of the last seven years. "You really have to keep an even keel."
Morgan backloaded his round with five birdies on the second nine, including four in a five-hole stretch starting at No. 12.
"If you're hitting it well here, you'll have opportunities for birdies," he said.
Ten players were at 69 including defending champion Ron Streck and Jay Haas, who came into this tournament having won his last three Champions Tour starts, one short of the record set by Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1987.
"I played well, but I'm really disappointed considering I was 4 under with six holes to play and then doubled-bogeyed 13 (a par-3) and bogeyed 18," said Haas, who made the cut at the Open and finished at 15 over, 10 shots behind winner Geoff Ogilvy. "This wasn't such penalty rough as Winged Foot, but it's still a darned good golf course."
Former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden made his first appearance in this event and opened with a 77. ... The field will start from the first and 10th tees on Saturday and Sunday because of concerns over the forecast for late afternoon thunderstorms. ... The first prize is $225,000 from a purse of $1.5 million. ... Tom Jenkins had five straight birdies starting at No. 8 in his 69. It was the 11th time on tour this year a player had a five-birdie run.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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