Wadkins takes first-round Champions lead at Naples

Updated: February 23, 2007, 7:07 PM ET
Associated Press

NAPLES, Fla. -- Bobby Wadkins shot an 8-under 64 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over Champions Tour newcomer Mark O'Meara, Allen Doyle and Gil Morgan after the first round of The ACE Group Classic.

Wadkins, who won the The Boeing Championship and Ford Senior Players last year, had two eagles, five birdies and one bogey on the Quail West Golf and Country Club course.

"I kept the ball where I was putting uphill most of the day, so that made things pretty simple," Wadkins said.

Wadkins eagled the par-5 first and 13th holes, then closed with four straight birdie, holing putts of 20, 12, 6 and 15 feet.

"I kind of just kept myself relaxed and played good today," he said. "I started making some birdies, and with an eagle and then a par and then a four-birdie finish tells me that I did a good job of staying out of my way. I think that's from last year's performance, that you kind of learn how to play a little bit better."

O'Meara bounced back from a closing 82 last week in his tour debut in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, eagling No. 1 and birdieing four of the next eight holes to make the turn at 6-under 30. After a double bogey at No. 10 when he hit his tee shot out of bounds, O'Meara birdied Nos. 12 and 13, then closed with another birdie, all of them in the 12- to 15-foot range.

O'Meara credited that success on the greens to a switch back to a Ping putter he used from 1991-2000, the same one he used to win the Masters and British Open in 1998. O'Meara had 17 birdies over the two pro-am days.

"I really didn't putt that great [last week]," O'Meara said. "I thought, 'You know, I better practice my putting on Monday and Tuesday.' So I spent a lot of time on the putting green at the range at Isleworth. I brought my Ping putter back out and it felt pretty good."

Eduardo Romero and Wayne Levi opened with 66s, and John Bland, D.A. Weibring, Mark Johnson, Morris Hatalsky, Brad Bryant and Mike Reid shot 67s. Loren Roberts, the winner last year at TwinEagles, was in a group at 68 that included Jay Haas, Curtis Strange, Mark James and Peter Jacobsen.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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