Masters runnerup DiMarco shares lead

By wire services
Published April 29, 2005

AVONDALE, La. - Chris DiMarco got off to a fast start in his first event since losing the Masters in a playoff, shooting a season-best 7-under 65 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Zurich Classic.

India's Arjun Atwal also opened with a 65, with birdies on six of his final nine holes on the TPC of Louisiana, the Pete Dye-designed course in its first year as the tournament site after 16 years at English Turn.

DiMarco, coming off the emotional first-hole loss to Tiger Woods three weeks ago at Augusta National, had a bogey-free round in swirling wind gusts.

"As long as I'm hitting the ball as solid as I'm hitting it, it really doesn't matter if you play in the wind or not," DiMarco said. "My irons are very crisp and when you hit crisp iron shots the wind doesn't affect them as much."

DiMarco, who started the round on No. 10, had three birdies on the first nine holes. He got to 4 under with a birdie on No. 1, made five straight pars, and sank a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 seventh. He closed the round with a birdie on No. 9.

"You just got to know where to miss it on this golf course," DiMarco said. "You got to know which side you can get up and down from and not try to be real aggressive. I had the luxury of being a couple under par and not having to go for certain pins."

Atwal, who lost a playoff last month in the BellSouth Classic, said he concentrated on his putting.

"I just tried to make pars because it was so windy," Atwal said. "Then I got things going on the front nine."

Defending champion Vijay Singh was in a group of four at 67.

Opening on the back nine, Singh had two bogeys and three birdies to make the turn at 1 under. He bogeyed No. 1 then had birdies on Nos. 2, 6 and 7.

Singh had an eagle on the par-3 eighth, with a 339-foot drive and a 30-yard chip to go to 6-under. He three-putted No. 9, however, for a final bogey.

"I had a lot of long putts that I couldn't judge," Singh said. "I three-putted four times. Long putts are hard for me to do the way the wind is blowing."

LPGA: Kris Tschetter shot a 3-under 69 in driving rain that gave way to windy afternoon conditions to top the field in the first round of the Franklin American Mortgage Championship in Franklin, Tenn.

Tschetter parred just one of her first seven holes and finished with six birdies and three bogeys to take a one-shot lead over Cristie Kerr, Grace Park and Stacy Prammanasudh on the Vanderbilt Legends Club's Ironhorse Course.

"This course is playing so long right now," Tschetter said. "I can't ever remember it playing like this."

Tschetter, an 18-year LPGA tour veteran who won her lone title in 1992, got off to a quick start by holing a 50-foot putt on No. 10, her first hole of the day. But she gave the stroke back on the next hole, setting the tone for the day.

"I just said, 'I have to be patient, there's going to be tough golf out there' and just tried not to let it bother me," she said.

Tschetter's final birdies came on the sixth and seventh holes. She hit a 5-wood into the green and sank a 20-foot putt on the 396-yard par-4 sixth before putting a sand wedge within a foot on No. 7. She hit 13 of 14 fairways and had 30 putts.

The weather made it frustrating for almost everyone, but it wasn't unexpected. Rain fell all four days of last year's tournament, and rain Tuesday and Wednesday this week forced most of the players to shorten their preparation.

ASIAN OPEN: No. 3-ranked Ernie Els joined a seven-way tie for the lead in the first round of the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai. Els struck a 5-under-par 67.