Morgan's two eagles in four holes fuel 7-under start at Turtle Bay

Updated: January 26, 2008, 1:02 AM ET
Associated Press

KAHUKU, Hawaii -- Gil Morgan can count on one hand how many times he practiced at home during the offseason. It showed last week when he had a bogey, double bogey and triple bogey in the final round of the MasterCard Championship.

There were no signs of rust Friday.

[+] EnlargeGil Morgan
Chris Condon/Getty ImagesStarting on No. 8, Gil Morgan went birdie-eagle-par-birdie-eagle to reach 8 under.

Morgan had two eagles in a four-hole stretch on his way to a 7-under 65 and the first-round lead in the Turtle Bay Championship.

"I was kind of surprised with my round today," Morgan said. "But my game's been getting a little better every day. Hopefully, my game will come around a little bit as I go forward. [But] I don't know if I could improve on this round."

Morris Hatalsky capped the round with consecutive birdies and was two strokes behind Morgan in the Champions Tour's first full-field event of the year.

Four rookies were among the group at 68, including John Cook, seeking his second victory in his fourth start on the 50-and-over circuit. He was joined by fellow rookies Fulton Allem, Bernhard Langer and Phil Blackmar.

Tom Kite, Jim Thorpe and Donnie Hammond also were at 68.

The 61-year-old Morgan quickly moved up the leaderboard during the middle holes. Starting on No. 8, Morgan went birdie-eagle-par-birdie-eagle to reach 8 under.

"It was pretty fast and furious for a while," he said.

Turtle Bay Leaderboard

1. Morgan (-7)
2. Hatalsky (-5)
T-3. Allem (-4)
T-3. Cook (-4)
T-3. Kite (-4)
T-3. Thorpe (-4)
T-3. Langer (-4)
T-3. Blackmar (-4)
T-3. Hammond (-4)

• Complete scores

Both eagles came on par 5s. He chipped in from 35 feet near the front of the green for the first eagle and sank a 35-foot putt on the other.

It was Morgan's best run since he carded an eagle and double eagle in the first seven holes of the 2001 Instinet Classic.

Morgan got up-and-down to save par on No. 14. He looked at the leaderboard on 16th and noticed he had built a nice cushion and had thoughts of a possible third eagle.

"If I could birdie one of last three or four holes there and with 18 being a birdie or eagle hole, I thought I could get to 10 under pretty easily," he said. "That wasn't out the question to me at that point, but I never did get the ball close enough to the hole."

He lost a stroke when he was caught between clubs from 135 yards and three-putted the par-4 17th from 30 feet.

"I wasn't thinking well and I let that one get away from me," said Morgan, coming off a 37th-place tie last week in the 41-player field at Hualalai. He was just a stroke out of last place and one of five players who failed to break par in the winners-only event.

Morgan, who won the 2007 Wal-Mart First Tee Open for his 25th Champions Tour victory, is making his fourth start at Turtle Bay, where he tied for 28th last year after closing with a 65.

"I haven't played as well as I would've liked at this golf course," he said. "It's always windy it seems. It's always blustery conditions."

Conditions at the oceanside Palmer Course were relatively calm Friday. Possible showers were expected for the weekend.

The group at 69 included Ben Crenshaw, Dana Quigley, Scott Simpson, John Jacobs, Bobby Wadkins, Mike Reid and Thailand's Boonchu Ruangkit.

Defending champion Fred Funk, who ran away with a record 11-stroke victory a year ago, opened with a 70, five strokes off the pace.

The 51-year-old Funk is seeking a Hawaiian sweep with his two-stroke victory over Allen Doyle at Hualalai. The victory came after he opened the year by tying for 25th in the PGA Tour's Mercedes-Benz Championship and tying for 10th in the Sony Open.

Funk, who had been dealing with a sinus infection, bogeyed No. 13, his first bogey in 67 holes at Turtle Bay.

Last year, Funk had the most-lopsided victory ever in a 54-hole Champions Tour event, finishing with consecutive 8-under 64s for an 11-stroke, wire-to-wire win. He had a tournament-record 23-under 193 total.

Six-time Turtle Bay winner Hale Irwin opened with a 72, as did 2006 winner Loren Roberts.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press