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Accuracy benefits Verplank

By Wire services
Published January 30, 2004

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Scott Verplank, never known for distance off the tee, had no problem with the newly lengthened course at the FBR Open.

Verplank solved the TPC of Scottsdale's puzzles with 8-under 63 Thursday to lead by one at the former Phoenix Open over late-charging Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, four days removed from his victory at the Bob Hope Classic, had six of his eight birdies after the turn.

"It was a fun day," Mickelson said. "It didn't look like it was going to be anything special - it just looked like it was going to be a solid, few-under-par round, and then something kind of clicked there."

Verplank breezed through an eight-birdie, mistake-free round on a course many thought favored long hitters.

"I found the feel for the greens to make some putts," Verplank said. "Last week at the Bob Hope was my first tournament since the Tour Championship, and I really struggled with my putting. I made a couple of nice ones early, and I kind of got in a rhythm."

The revamped layout proved tricky for some, notably defending Phoenix champion Vijay Singh. He, 2000 winner Tom Lehman and John Daly were part of a cluster at 71.

Frost delayed the start 20 minutes, and 25 players, including Mike Weir, were stranded when play was suspended because of darkness. They will finish today before starting the second round.

Tour officials, concerned by Mark Calcavecchia's 28-under 256 - a record for a par-71 course - in 2001 and Singh's 23 under last year, ordered the course toughened. Seven holes were changed, and it was lengthened by 127 yards to 7,216 without changing par.

EUROPEAN-AUSTRALASIAN PGA: Thomas Bjorn shot 8-under 64 in Bangkok, Thailand, giving him a one-stroke lead over Nick Faldo in the Johnnie Walker Classic. Defending champion Ernie Els and PGA champ Shaun Micheel shot 70.

[Last modified January 30, 2004, 01:32:11]


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