Herron fired a 9-under-par 63, his lowest round in three years, to take the first-round lead in what may be the final Buick Challenge. He is two shots clear of six others, including world No. 2 Phil Mickelson.
'I knew it was coming. I didn't know it was going to be today,' Herron said.
Mickelson is making his first appearance since the Ryder Cup. The lefthander carded five birdies and holed his bunker shot for eagle at the par-5 11th en route to a 65. Hes tied with Rocco Mediate, Bob May, Ben Crane, David Gossett and New Zealander Michael Long.
Coming off three consecutive missed cuts, Herron shot four sub-70 rounds to tie for fourth in last weeks Disney Golf Classic. Thursday, he made it five straight rounds in the 60s.
The 32-year-old was 1-under through his first eighth hole before going birdie-birdie-eagle. Having started his round on the back nine, he shot 7-under 29 on the front side. He birdied Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6 and 9. His eagle came on the par-5 second when he hit a 6-iron to four feet.
'It was a great stretch, and I knew the cylinders were starting to run,' Herron said. 'To play like that is why we play golf. I wasn't even thinking 29. I just tried to birdie as many as holes as I could.'
Herron is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, but hasnt stepped inside the winners circle since the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational.
Mickelson is looking for his third victory of the season, and has a new toy in his bag. He is using a putter from Scotty Cameron which is a modified version of the 'Futura.' It looks like a branding iron, with a small bar that wraps around the back of the blade from one end to the other.
'We've been working on it for two years,' Mickelson said. 'Granted, the cosmetics I haven't spent much time on. There's a lot of improvement that can be done.'
This is the 33rd playing of the tournament, and unless it gets a new sponsor it will be the last. Buick has decided to end its relationship with the event after eight years, and is expected to announce a partnership with another tournament (there are already the Buick Invitational, Buick Classic and Buick Open). Thus far, no other entity has stepped up to cover the roughly $4 million annual fee for the next tour contract period, 2003-06.
Full-field scores from the Buick Challenge