Bogey-free 63 Lifts Sluman to Lead

By Sports NetworkMay 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Jeff Sluman fired a round of 7-under-par 63 on Thursday to grab the opening-round lead of the Byron Nelson Championship. Jim Furyk, Billy Andrade and Kevin Sutherland share second place at 6-under-par 64.
Play rotates over the TPC at Las Colinas and Cottonwood Valley Golf Club for the first two rounds before Las Colinas takes over the final two rounds.
Sluman played his first round at Cottonwood and tallied a birdie at the par-3 second hole. He collected three birdies in his last four holes on the front side to make the turn at 4-under 30.
Sluman, the 1988 PGA Championship winner, notched six consecutive pars to begin his second nine but caught fire at the close of his round.
He reached the par-5 16th green in two with a 5-wood then nearly holed a 55-footer for eagle on the difficult green. He settled for birdie but it set off a spectacular finish for the 45-year-old.
At the par-3 17th, Sluman knocked a 6-iron to 12 feet to set up birdie and at the finishing hole he ran home an eight-footer to take the first-round lead in a PGA Tour event for the first time since last year's Walt Disney event. He also became the seventh player in nine years to take the first-round lead after opening on the Cottonwood course.
'I just didn't get out there, aimlessly launch the driver with any disregard for anything because the rough is actually a little bit of a penalty this year versus other years,' said Sluman, who missed the Wachovia Championship last week to be his father, who had kidney transplant surgery. 'I mean there is still going to be low scores because of the conditions right now and there is very little wind that didn't come up like I thought it would.'
Sluman was not happy with the way he was putting in 2003 so he consulted former PGA Tour player Stan Utley for some advice over the phone the night before the start of the New Orleans tournament two weeks ago.
'I feel like I have played well all year for the most part but as always for most pros when they are not playing well it is usually putting, and I haven't putted that well,' said Sluman, who has four top-15s in 13 starts this season. 'I haven't made the putts that you need to make to keep rounds going or to get that one really low round in there.
'I had some inherent flaws in my putting stroke, and they need to get out. Right now I'm on the infant stages of this. I certainly like the results so far.'
Furyk, who played the TPC course on Thursday, mixed eight birdies and two bogeys in the first round. He missed the cut last week in North Carolina and immediately sought out his father's help.
'I tried to work some kinks out,' said Furyk. 'I had a couple of weeks off so I was rusty last week, and I spent a lot of time out here practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday. It paid off and I have to keep plugging away. I saw a few things I want to work on but I'm happy with the round.'
Andrade was tied with Sluman but ran into trouble at the 18th. His approach spun back off the green and he played to five feet, where he missed the par-saving putt.
'I hit a pretty good shot in there and it spun off to the front edge,' said Andrade. 'It was one of those putts where it looked like it was really slow and I knocked it by four and a half feet. I had a tough putt, it could have broken either way. I wasn't happy with the finish, but other than that I made seven birdies.'
Sutherland overcame a bogey at the first at Cottonwood to record seven birdies the rest of the way for his 64.
Phil Mickelson, Jerry Kelly, Duffy Waldorf, Briny Baird, Jim Carter, Tim Petrovic, Spike McRoy, Tommy Armour III, Jonathan Kaye, Mark Walker and Vijay Singh shot rounds of 5-under 65 to share fifth place.
Singh has been in the middle of controversy all week after his stance on Annika Sorenstam's playing in next week's Colonial. It did not seem to matter on Thursday as his 65 matched his best round on tour this season.
'I was just focused on my game,' Singh said. 'I don't read much of the papers. I was focused to play this week, and I want to do well.'
Shigeki Maruyama, the 2002 champion who has struggled with neck injuries since the win last year, opened his title defense with a 2-over 72. Among other players tied with Maruyama in 124th are Sergio Garcia, Jesper Parnevik and John Daly.
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