Forsman Leads in New Orleans

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Four-time PGA Tour winner Dan Forsman posted his best score in more than a year to take the first round lead at the Compaq Classic of New Orleans. The 43-year-old had an early tee time and birdied half of his final 12 holes to shoot a 7-under-par 65 at English Turn Golf & CC. Most of the highly ranked players in the field had afternoon tee times, but were unable to match Forsmans total.
 
Rich Beem, who opened the day with a 29 on his first nine, shot 67 for sole possession of second. Stewart Cink, John Rollins, Jeff Gallagher, Tim Clark, Per-Ulrik Johannsen and Dudley Hart are tied for third, three strokes behind the leader. Defending champion David Toms is in a group of 11 players four back.
 
The first third of Forsmans round was a bit uninspired. A couple of early birdies were tarnished by a bogey at the par-5 sixth. He caught fire on the very next hole, however, and birdied five of his next seven. A birdie on the home hole gave him his first round of 65 on the PGA Tour since last years Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
 
'We started first and there was no doubt that was a definite advantage because there was still some moisture on the ground,' said Forsman. 'I think the big difference this afternoon is that (the greens) are so hard and baked that it's treacherous around the hole.'
 
Forsman was short and somewhat crooked off of the tee, averaging 251 yards and hitting less than two-thirds of his fairways, but he made up for it with his scoring clubs. He hit 14 of 18 greens and needed only 24 putts.
 
'I haven't had a 24-putt round in quite some time,' Forsman said. 'But I've been working hard on my putting. And ironically, the harder I worked it seemed like the worse I was putting. But I kept the faith and thought if I just keep with it one of these days it's going to come my way.'
 
Forsman hadnt made a cut in four events until two weeks ago in Hilton Head. His last win was at the 1992 Buick Open. He held at least a share of the first round lead twice in 2000, at the Canon Greater Hartford Open and the MCI Classic. Prior to that his last opening round lead was in 1994. Forsman held the first-round lead six times in his career and a tie for third at the 2000 MCI was his best finish in those events.
 
The man who went on to win the MCI in 2000 finds himself tied for third place at this years Compaq. Stewart Cink had an efficient round through 16 holes, playing in the afternoon. He began his round with five consecutive pars. Six birdies over his next ten holes, including all three par-5s, put him one off Forsman's lead with three holes remaining. Cink finished with a pair of bogeys and had to settle for a 67.
 
Cink had a huge advantage over Forsman off the tee. Cinks 289-yard average led the field and was almost 40 yards longer than the round one leader. Forsman finished third in New Orleans in 1988, while Cink missed the cut in his only bayou appearance five years ago.
 
Some stellar names in the field posted some not-so-stellar numbers. Players Championship winner Craig Perks started on the back nine, parred his first five, then made a quadruple bogey nine at the par-5 15th hole. A double bogey at 18 and Perks finished his opening nine in 42 strokes. Playing in the same group, Phil Mickelson struggled to get into red numbers all day. Never straying more than a stroke from even par Mickelson shot 73 with three birdies and four bogeys.
 
The following players also had afternoon tee times and like Mickelson were unable to break par: DiMarco (72), Price (74), Els (75) and Perks (76).