Petersen's 64 helps him grab one-shot edge

Updated: April 25, 2003, 3:51 AM ET
Associated Press

FORT SMITH, Ark. -- Scott Petersen largely kept to the fairway in posting a 6-under-par 64 Thursday to take a first-day lead in the Nationwide Tour stop at Hardscrabble Country Club.

Petersen leads three golfers by a stroke in the $475,000 Rheem Classic heading into Friday's second round.

Grouped at 5-under were Zach Johnson, Brian Claar and Franklin Langham. Stephen Gangluff, Boo Weekley, Brad Fabel, Ryuji Imada and Bruce Vaughn shared fifth place at 4-under, two shots behind the leader.

"The rough is so deep out here. Luckily I avoided it,'' said Petersen, whose last win came at the 2000 Inland Empire Open. "I've been here in the past when we played this tournament in August when there wasn't any rough. It's a whole different golf course this time around.''

The tournament was moved to April from August to avoid the searing summer heat. The timing also gave officials a better growing season for the rough, which measures some 4½ inches. On Thursday afternoon, winds were blowing 10-25 miles an hour with occasional gusts to 30 mph. The 78 morning players were a cumulative 28-over par while the afternoon players were 175 over.

Petersen finished the first nine at even par but got hot in his return.

"Sometimes you get that feeling on the greens. I got that today and started thinking I could make them all,'' he said.

Johnson, the leader for the first three days at last week's First Tee Arkansas Classic, kept his momentum going from a tie for third four days ago.

"I'm putting well still and I hit a lot of shots close,'' he said. "I feel like I know where the ball is going right now. Rhythm, confidence and momentum were all a part of the round for me.''

Johnson had seven birdies and one double-bogey on the day.

Langham got an assist from the wind on his next-to-last green, where he stood over a 20-foot birdie putt.

"In the middle of the putt, the ball just took off on me,'' he said. "It just sped up. Fortunately it didn't blow it off line.

Some days when you're not playing well and you need one of those the wind blows it off line. Today, I was just lucky it didn't. This is a crazy game sometimes.''

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press