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New grip helps Taylor grab lead

By wire services
Published May 28, 2004

MEMPHIS - Switching his putting grip helped Vaughn Taylor fix his stroke on the greens.

Taylor needed 24 putts Thursday for 5-under-par 66 that gave him a one-stroke lead over defending champion David Toms and Paul Stankowski after the first round of the St. Jude Classic.

The former Nationwide Tour player grabbed the lead of a tournament that has none of the PGA Tour's top 10 money leaders with seven birdies and two bogeys. That put him in the lead after 18 holes for the first time in 14 PGA events.

Taylor said he rearranged his left hand on his putter after talking with an old teacher recently.

"I just putted really well," he said. "Basically, I hit it decent, kept it in play and just basically hit some 20- , 30-footers, chipped in on 18 and just kind of hung in there."

That was enough on a very different TPC at Southwind course, where winds up to 27 mph and dry fairways and greens made scoring tough. The last time 66 was the low score after the first round was in 1994.

Only eight golfers broke 70, with Stewart Cink, Zhang Lian-Wei and Hirofumi Miyase tied at 68, followed by Brent Geiberger and Patrick Sheehan (69). Last year, 65 were in the 60s.

Stankowski said he was surprised when he glanced at a leaderboard and saw that 1 under was listed. "You just don't see that here, man. You get done with your first round and 10 under is leading and 5 under is the last number on the board, and the guys that show up in the afternoon are thinking, "Gosh, I've got to shoot 5 under just to get on the board,"' Stankowski said.

"It's fun. It's definitely a challenge."

LPGA: It didn't take Annika Sorenstam long to get comfortable on a course she hadn't seen in nine years.

Without a practice round, Sorenstam returned from two weeks off to shoot 7-under 65 and tie Liselotte Neumann for the first-round lead at the Corning Classic in New York.

They were one shot ahead of Natalie Gulbis, Lee Ann Walker-Cooper, Audra Burks and Nancy Harvey. Catriona Matthew, Michelle Estill, Hilary Lunke and Sherri Steinhauer, who won the Sybase Classic Sunday, were another shot back at 67. Defending champion Juli Inkster finished 1-over 73.

Although Sorenstam hadn't played Corning since finishing in a tie for seventh in 1995, her second year on tour, she was greeted warmly by spectators eager to see the game's most heralded woman.

"I'm very happy to be back," said Sorenstam, who didn't arrive until Wednesday night. "I felt tremendous support."

Sorenstam's long absence didn't affect her game much. She hit all but one green in regulation and with a little more luck - she missed short birdie putts on the final two holes - would have eclipsed the tournament record of 64 for the lowest first-round score, set in 1994 by Nancy Ramsbottom and matched last year by Karen Stupples.

CHAMPIONS: A simple adjustment led to a surprising first round for Tom Watson at the Senior PGA Championship.

Watson shot 4-under 67 at Valhalla and was tied for the lead with Hale Irwin, who birdied three of his last four holes.

The start of the tournament was delayed two hours after overnight rain in Louisville, Ky., drenched the course. Play was suspended because of lightning and 72 players were due back at 7:30 this morning to finish their opening rounds.

Gil Morgan was 3 under through 15 holes. Jay Haas, making his first Champions Tour start, was 2 under with three holes to play. The nine-time PGA Tour winner turned 50 in December, but has remained on the PGA Tour.

Watson played in the morning and wasn't expecting much after struggling on the practice range the previous day. On Thursday, he remembered a change he made after the 2002 PGA Championship and it worked immediately.

"Just a takeaway thought, where I rotate a little bit more," he said. "On the first nine, I hit some pretty good quality shots doing it."

EUROPEAN PGA: Ernie Els took the lead at the Volvo PGA Championship, shooting 8-under 64 in the opening round in Virginia Water, England. Els was one stroke ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Christopher Hanell and Stephen Dodd. Vijay Singh, ranked No.2 in the world, was two back with 66. Els, ranked No.3, can overtake Singh in the rankings if he wins and Singh is no better than sixth.

IT'S OFFICIAL: The World Match Play Championship in England will expand its field to 16 and has been designated an official event, making its $1.8-million first-place check the richest in the sport. The purse for the event, to be played Oct.14-17 at Wentworth, will increase to $4.4-million. The money will count on the European PGA Tour money list.

[Last modified May 28, 2004, 01:00:27]


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