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Golf briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001

Simpson in lead, bad leg and all

Simpson in lead, bad leg and all

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A lot has changed since Scott Simpson won 14 years ago at Forest Oaks Country Club.

His jet black hair has turned gray, he has shaved his trademark mustache, he has put on a few pounds and the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic now has a $3.5-million purse.

The 45-year-old Simpson also is attempting an unlikely comeback on the PGA Tour with seven screws and a plate in his right ankle following a December 1999 skiing accident in Utah.

Simpson shot 6-under-par 66 Thursday in one of his best rounds since picking his clubs back up and grabbed a one-stroke lead over seven golfers after the first round.

Aaron Baddeley, a 20-year-old rising star from Australia, Jerry Kelly, Dudley Hart, Robert Damron, Shaun Micheel, Spike McRoy and sectional qualifier Jeffrey Lankford were at 67.

"There is a picture of me in the locker room and everybody says, "Who is that guy?' " Simpson said in reference to his different appearance since winning here in 1987, when first place was worth $108,000. This year's winner gets $630,000.

Simpson has missed five of nine cuts after sitting out 2000 with his injury. He's playing this season on a major medical exemption and is 171st in greens in regulation, 163rd in driving distance and 157th in scoring average.

But Simpson can still putt, and that's what saved him in his bogey-free round on the 7,062-yard layout.

Simpson made the turn at 2-under on a sunny afternoon in the mid 60s, then birdied holes 10-12 and added another four holes later. Two of his birdie putts were from 15 feet and three were from 12 feet.

"The fun is trying to play under pressure and getting into contention," said Simpson, who last won in 1998. "It's fun to see if you can do it again."

Simpson, who walks with a limp, recalled his win here years ago, laughing about the cold weather and being in the interview chair again.

"It was so cold Payne Stewart wasn't even wearing knickers," Simpson said of the late golfer. "We all wore rain pants and we had to stop because of snow in the last round. And I remember playing real steady and having the lead and then limping in. I would like to limp in again."

KATHY IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP: With Americans winless in the first 10 tournaments this year, Rosie Jones and Tina Barrett shot 4-under 66s to share the lead with Sweden's Carin Koch in the LPGA event in Austin, Texas.

"I'm kind of sick of the talk, being a proud American," said Barrett, who had five birdies in her opening round.

England's Johanna Head, who flew to Texas on Sunday to play in her first tournament this year, and unheralded American Lisa DePaulo, who qualified for the tournament last month, joined Canada's Lorie Kane, Scotland's Mhairi McKay and American Leta Lindley at 67.

Annika Sorenstam is not playing.

CHUNICHI CROWNS: Dean Wilson equaled the course record with 8-under 62 and took a two-shot lead after the first round of the $902,000 tournament in Togo, Japan.

PORTUGUESE OPEN: Padraig Harrington bogeyed the final hole but shot 8-under 64 for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the $900,000 tournament in Faro.

LOCAL TOURNAMENT RETURNS: The Tampa City Medal-Play Championship is back after a three-year hiatus. The tournament, first played in 1947, will be contested Saturday and Sunday at Rogers Park Golf Club. The two-day, 36-hole event will have about 100 players. Spectators are welcome and playing spots are available. Call (813) 234-1911.

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