Zoeller birdies seven of first 14 holes to take share of ACE Group Classic lead

Updated: February 15, 2008, 6:55 PM ET
Associated Press

NAPLES, Fla. -- Loren Roberts, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Kite and Bruce Fleisher shot 7-under 65s on Friday to share the first-round lead in The ACE Group Classic.

After a week of rain, wind or both, conditions were calm and the greens were soft, leading to low scores -- and for Zoeller, some happy spectators at Quail West.

"I had about 45 people down here from southern Indiana, so it does feel like home," said Zoeller, who also is a member of Naples National Golf Club and attended Edison College for two years in nearby Fort Myers. "It doesn't change anything, though. Still have to go out and play well. You got to love the support, though."

Peter Jacobsen, who lives in nearby Bonita Springs, was a stroke back at 66 along with Joe Ozaki and Bruce Lietzke. Wayne Levi, Eduardo Romero, Scott Simpson, Tom Purtzer and Gary Koch shot 67s, and defending champion Bobby Wadkins had a 69.

Zoeller birdied seven of the first 14 holes before three-putting for a bogey on No. 15. He bounced back with a 23-foot birdie putt on No. 17.

"It's a different game," said Zoeller, who tied for 26th last week in Boca Raton. "It's fun when the ball is going in the hole and things are going right, but it's a miserable game when things aren't going well. I'm hitting the ball pretty darn well."

Roberts finished off a record three straight victories to open the Champions Tour season in 2006 in Naples. Last year, Roberts made a final-day charge with a 66 to get into a tie for fifth.

After seeing his instructor, Dr. Jim Suttie, who has an academy in the area, last week about his putting stroke, Roberts drained birdie putts on six of seven holes during one stretch, before parring the final four.

"I went out and I got a good score up today," Roberts said. "I didn't hit the ball great. I just hit the ball pretty good all day and just really putted well. That was kind of the key to my whole round today. I kind of started a little bit slower, and then kind of finished a little bit slower."

Kite, who switched to a long putter toward the end of last year, used it to birdie the last four holes. Fleisher birdied six of the last 10 holes.

"Having not played and having two or three seasons of just mediocrity, I'm just trying to get back on my feet," Fleisher said. "This is great."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press