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37-28 (yes, 28) leads Heritage

©Associated Press
April 18, 2003

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Craig Barlow's search for a solid swing ended abruptly Thursday with a nine-hole tournament-record 28 that gave him a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the MCI Heritage.

Fed up and desperate after he shot 2-over-par 37 on his first nine at Harbour Town Golf Links, Barlow made a drastic, mid-round change -- moving the ball 2 inches forward in his stance. The result was a stretch like none other on Pete Dye's famous layout and left Barlow with 6-under 65.

He had two eagles and four birdies coming in to break the course mark of 29 set by Brad Faxon in 1997 and tied four times since. Barlow also was a shot off the PGA Tour record of 27 -- shared by Mike Souchak (1955), Andy North (1975) and Billy Mayfair (2001).

"You know what, I was happy that I felt like a golfer again," said Barlow, never a winner in six PGA Tour seasons. "I mean, I haven't played well this year and it just felt good to feel like me."

Barlow was a shot ahead of Davis Love, a four-time champion here, and John Senden, an Australian in his second tour season.

Another shot behind was a group of 10 led by Hal Sutton and 2000 Heritage winner Stewart Cink. Masters runner-up Len Mattiace and Nick Price, the champion here six years ago, were tied with 11 others at 68.

Masters winner Mike Weir and world No. 1 Tiger Woods were among those taking the week off.

Barlow, who worked at Pizza Hut for five years before joining the tour full time in 1998, has struggled since to keep his swing together and his playing card.

He has never been higher than 122nd on the money list. He has missed the cut in six of nine events this year. And the problems continued with two bogeys on his first four holes here as he continually pushed shots to the right.

Barlow finally snapped after a sloppy drive on No. 18. "I said, 'You know what? Enough's enough.' "

He figured the ball was too far back in his stance. After his adjustment, he struck a solid 5-iron shot within 15 feet of the cup and knew he had something special.

The ball "made a different noise. It flew different," Barlow said. "I looked up and it was like, 'Wow, that's a change.' "

He rolled in a 30-footer for eagle on the par-5 second hole. He landed a 4-wood shot about 8 feet away on the fifth, another par 5, and made the putt for another eagle.

He tied Love for the lead with birdie on No. 8 and closed the record performance with birdie on No. 9.

The last time anyone had two eagles in the same 18 holes here was Love during the first round in 1992. He went on to win his third Heritage that year.

"I definitely never would have guessed I would go from shooting 2 over to 8 under," Barlow said.

TAKEFUJI CLASSIC: Laura Diaz might think about wearing a brace on her ankle every time she plays golf. With the brace helping get her through a pain-free round, Diaz shot 6-under 66 to tie Catriona Matthew for the LPGA lead after one round at Las Vegas.

Diaz missed the cut in Los Angeles two weeks ago after reinjuring her left ankle in a workout, but she was in no pain and in fine spirits after taking a share of the lead for the first time this year.

"I feel like I'm carrying around 10 extra pounds on my ankle," Diaz said. "But I'll play until I can't walk, that's my theory."

Diaz sank a long putt for eagle on the ninth hole and tapped in one for a closing birdie to match her lowest round of the year.

Four others were a shot back at 5 under, and defending champion Annika Sorenstam had a par 72 and was six shots behind.

Matthew eagled her first hole and birdied her last two at the Las Vegas Country Club to tie Diaz, on a day when gusty winds played havoc with some shots.

ALGARVE OPEN: Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson shot a course-record 8-under 64 and held a two-stroke lead after the first round of European PGA play at Faro, Portugal.

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