Then his tournament rustiness kicked in.
Normans concentration wavered when a clump of grass blew across his ball in a greenside bunker on his 16th hole. Instead of pausing, he hit anyway'and didnt make it out, the ball rolling back to nearly the same spot. Then it happened again. Norman wound up with a double bogey. Another concentration lapse on the next hole resulted in a three-putt from about 12 feet for a bogey.
After coming up inches short of a birdie on the final hole, Norman walked off with an even-par round of 70'tied for 40th, along with 18 others.
I pretty much let a good one get away, Norman said. You need the feel for tournament play and I dont have it. At the end of the day, I did hit some quality shots out there, so you know theyre still in the system.
This is Normans second PGA TOUR start of the year, but only his fifth in four years. Hes trying to make the cut for the first time since the 2005 British Open.
I would like to make the cut, obviously. Im certainly not going to walk around here and be a ceremonial golfer, Norman said. At least I know I can get it to 3-, 4-, 5-under par around here. So well see what I can do tomorrow.
The field is chasing John Merrick, who holed a roughly 50-foot putt on his final shot for a 6-under 64 and the lead all by himself.
It was one of those days where everything kind of went your way, said Merrick, who shot a 64 in the first round of this event last year, too, but couldnt sustain it. His score went up each round and he finished tied for 48th.
Larry Mize, who beat Norman in a memorable playoff at the 1987 Masters, was among four players at 65.
John Daly, Tommy Gainey and Brian Gay shot 66s. Gainey, nicknamed Two Gloves, is in his first year on the TOUR, but already known to golf buffs because of his appearances on The GOLF CHANNEL's Big Break.
Reigning champion Fred Funk may not be around to defend his title this weekend. Funk opened with a birdie, giving hope to chasing the course-record 62 he shot in the opening round of last years tournament, but he followed with two bogeys and never made it back to par. He finished with a 3-over 73, tied for 95th.