Frazar in four-way logjam at Buick Championship
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Harrison Frazar didn't know what to expect when he teed it up Thursday at the Buick Championship.
After what he's been through, it was a pleasant surprise.
It wasn't that long ago he found himself on the floor in a hospital bathroom just after the birth of his third son. It had been a traumatic one. The baby stopped breathing for a while and his heart rate dropped. When the baby was finally out of danger and his wife fell asleep, Frazar curled up on the floor for 45 minutes.
J.J. Henry did quite a job scrambling for the hometown fans during the opening round of the Buick Championship. Henry, from Fairfield, Conn., missed seven greens in regulation, yet was able to scramble for par on each of the holes. The 7-for-7 by Henry ties his PGA Tour career high for scrambling success in a round. The last time Henry was 7-for-7 in scrambling success came during round two of the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
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"I didn't want to move because it was finally -- everything was OK -- and it was over," Frazar said.
The father of three returned from a long layoff of handling family illnesses to grab a share of the first-round lead in the Buick Championship. He shot a season-best 5-under 65 to join Heath Slocum, Peter Lonard and Scott Verplank atop the leaderboard.
"I have pictures of the kids hanging on the side of the bag. I looked at it a couple of times and it made me smile," Frazar said. "But at the same time it makes me sad to know there is a 9-day-old baby at home that I'd love to see."
Frazar, seeking his first PGA Tour victory, hadn't played a tour round since withdrawing after the first round in Memphis last month. The recent birth of his child and family health problems kept him to close home. In that time, he only played a few rounds with his father and some buddies.
"Haven't hardly hit more than a bucket of balls at a time, maybe total, in the five weeks," Frazar said. "Just spent a lot of time with my family, trying to get everybody squared away."
Former U.S. Open champ Corey Pavin, Memorial winner Carl Pettersson, Darron Stiles, Camilo Villegas, Todd Fischer and Ron Whittaker opened with 66s, and former Buick Championship winners Olin Browne and Brent Geiberger were in a 12-player group at 67.
Defending champ Brad Faxon struggled with six bogeys and finished with a 4-over 74.
Frazar has made just seven cuts in 15 events this year. He has a pair of top-25 finishes, but golf has been one of the last things on his mind for months now. His wife, Allison, was carrying twins, but one died in the womb at 12 weeks. Since then, his wife's grandmother died, his 3-year-old son had intestinal surgery and his 7-year-old son broke his arm. Then came the traumatic birth of his third son.
"The best think I could do at the time for me is to get away from golf for an extended period of time and go home and take care of them," Frazar said. "Where most people go play golf to get away from their personal problems, I find solace in going home and getting real involved with my family."
Everybody is fine now and Frazar has slowly turned his attention back to golf. He had six birdies. His only stumble was on the par-4 15th when he pulled his drive into the greenside pond. He finished with his best round at the TPC at River Highlands in six trips.
Verplank has been bothered by a sore shoulder, but a cortisone shot and therapy has the four-time PGA Tour winner swinging better. Plus the 6,820-yard course has been a kind venue to those who aren't the biggest boomers on tour. Verplank is looking for his first win since 2001.
"The way the schedule is and the way a lot of golf courses that we're playing have changed, I've got to come to a place like this where you don't have to drive it 350 yards and hack it out of the rough up to your knees that only certain guys can do," Verplank said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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