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Singh gets birdies and back slaps
By wire services
Published April 22, 2005
HUMBLE, Texas - Fresh from inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Vijay Singh tied the course record with 8-under-par 64 for a one-shot lead Thursday after the first round of the Houston Open.
Singh extended his streak of par or better to 56 holes at the Redstone Golf Club, where he won this event a year ago.
He laughed when told of his bogey-free string going back to last year, when he finished 11 under and won by two shots.
"Don't mention that," he said. "I struck the ball really well today, had a very good feel of the greens and my speed was good, and when you do that you can make some birdies."
After Singh came Australians Gavin Coles and Brendan Jones. Eight players were at 67. Six others, including John Daly, were another shot back.
Singh was announced Wednesday as the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame, although he said he learned three weeks ago the honor was coming, meaning it wasn't a distraction now. "My focus this week is coming out here," he said.
Still, the recognition, both off and on the course Thursday, was appreciated.
"Every player out there said something about it, so that was good," Singh said.
So was his round. Starting on the back nine, he had pars on four of his first five holes, then birdied 15, 16 and 17 and made the turn at 4 under. He finished the front side with a flurry, getting birdies on three of the last four holes.
Coles, 36, struggled as a rookie two years ago and wound up last year on the Nationwide Tour, finishing 20th in earnings and winning once. His best finish this year is a tie for 17th.
The best finish for Jones, 30, is a tie for 29th at the Nissan Open in February. He's 170th on this year's money list and last in putting.
LPGA TOUR: Natalie Gulbis posted 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Corona Morelia Championship at Morelia, Mexico, while Lorena Ochoa struggled to 1-over 71 in her second pro event in her homeland.
Audra Burks and Carin Koch were at 4 under.
Gulbis, 22, started on the back nine and, after opening with par, reeled off three straight birdies. She added three more after making the turn, using long, accurate drives to stay out of trouble.
"I'm very fortunate that I have good distance off the tee and that definitely helped on a golf course like this one," said Gulbis, looking for her first win in her fourth LPGA season. "I had a lot of wedges today ... and you can fire at pins when you have short wedges in your hand."
Ochoa insisted nerves weren't a problem in her round despite hundreds of cheering fans. Crowd noise and a large media following slowed her round, which lasted more than five hours. The raucous atmosphere drew complaints from other players.
The crowds are expected to get larger this weekend, and 100 friends and family members were expected to arrive to cheer on Ochoa.
PGA EUROPEAN/ASIAN TOUR: Strong winds caused play to be suspended on the first day of the Johnnie Walker Classic at Beijing after just 26 groups had teed off.
Australia's Adam Scott was atop the leaderboard at 3 under through 10 holes when play was halted after less than four hours because of winds reaching more than 30 mph. France's Jean Jucquin was 2 under through 13, South Korea's K.J. Choi was 2 under through nine, and Spain's Jose Lara was 2 under through five.
Ernie Els completed nine holes and was 1 over. Sergio Garcia, playing in the same group as Scott, was 1 under.