Notes Kresge Inspired Bates Major

By Mercer BaggsAugust 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
NORTON, Mass. -- Cliff Kresge had a share of the first-round lead of the Deutsche Bank Championship until Justin Rose eagled his final hole to push ahead.
 
It would have been the first time that the 34-year-old Floridian would have owned at least a share of the lead at the conclusion of any stage in a PGA Tour event.
 
That would be kind of cool, leading the tournament after the first round, said the Nationwide Tour graduate, who shot 6-under 65. I guess its great to be in the lead, but obviously Sunday is what it most important. I will take any lead I can.
 
Kresge is a two-time winner on the developmental tour. He has recorded three top-10 finishes this season, and has already secured his PGA Tour playing privilege for 2004.
 
That helps me go out and play golf a little more freely and not be so worried about whether or not I am going to have a job next year, said Kresge, who entered this week 76th on the money list.
 
A tie for 10th at the U.S. Open and a tie for sixth at the Western have helped establish that security. Because of his play at the Western, Kresge got an exemption into the Open Championship. His week ended quickly when he missed the cut at Royal St. Georges, but it was the beginning that he remembers fondly.
 
I played a practice round with Ben Curtis out there, so we laughed and talked about how much it was going to take to keep your card and he said that he was playing a little better and blah, blah, blah, and hes still got time, Kresge recalled. And I will be darned, he wins the tournament.
 
I would say the same thing at the PGA. Shaun Micheel, hes been out here for many years, hes a good, solid player, but never really a marquee-type player. When guys do that, that gives people like myself more incentive and more confidence that it could be done.
 
PAT ON THE BACK
 
Dont tell Pat Bates the major season is over.
 
Bates, who was born in St. Louis, Mo., and was a three-time All-America selection at the University of Florida, considers this weeks event very much a homecoming.
 
Bates played the North Atlantic mini-tour following his exodus from Gainesville, Fla., and won the 1993 Massachusetts Open.
 
That was my breakthrough as a professional, he said. Maybe this would be my breakthrough on tour.
 
Bates opened play at the TPC of Boston in 5-under 66. He is three off the 18-hole lead.
 
Bates is in his second consecutive season on the PGA Tour, and third overall. He finished 206th on the 1995 money list and was relegated to the now Nationwide Tour. After five unsuccessful attempts to get back to the big league ' he played in only five events in 1999 due to season-ending neck surgery ' he graduated from the developmental tour when he won three times in 2001.
 
Bates played in 29 events last year, making 17 cuts and squeaking inside the top 125 in earnings at No. 123.
 
He enters this week at 109, having made 14 cuts in 26 starts. And with a lot of the top-ranked players taking time off over the next month, This is a big stretch for me, he said.
 
Bates concluded his first round Friday with a six-foot par putt. He raised his fist in celebration, and was loudly applauded by those around the green. After signing his scorecard, Bates signed several autographs and was treated to, Keep it up, Pat! and Way to go, Pat! as he left the scene.
 
One middle-aged woman even asked for a kiss on the cheek. He graciously obliged.
 
I still know a lot of people from here. This is like home, he said.
 
Ive never played in any majors, he added. This is my major.
 
FAX ON, FAX OFF
 
Brad Faxon has played the TPC of Boston course more than anyone else -- he estimates 10 times since the course opened in June -- in the field, but it didn't help Friday.
 
Faxon opened in 4-over 75.
 
'It was pretty tough,' said Faxon, who played in the afternoon when the winds were considerably stronger. 'Club selection was tough. It was much more difficult than this morning.
 
'I struggled a little bit -- lucky to finish where I am.'
 
As a native Rhode Islander, Faxon is a fan favorite at this event. When he putted out for birdie on the par-5 18th, those left in the greenside bleachers gave him a solid ovation.
 
'It was nice,' he said. 'Hopefully, I'll shoot a low score tomorrow. I certainly don't want to miss this.'
 
One of those following Faxon in the gallery was his 95-year-old paternal grandfather. Faxon said his grandfather got a chance to meet his playing competitor on Friday, British Open champion Ben Curtis.
 
'He said, 'You surprised everyone, Ben,' I think he called him Mr. Curtis,' Faxon said with a smile.
 
SINGH-ING A NEW TUNE
 
Vijay Singh shot 6-under 65 Friday to finish two shots off the lead.
 
Singh, who has won twice this season, made six birdies and no bogeys, and credited a new belly-putter to much of his success.
 
'I changed from Scotty Cameron to Bobby Grace,' said Singh, who had 28 putts in Round 1. 'It should be called 'Amazing Grace.''
 
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