The 27-year-old carded a 6-under 64 at Barton Creeks Crenshaw Cliffside course, two shots better than Calgarys Wes Heffernan and Americans Michael Harris, Jason Bohn and Jess Daley. Play was suspended with 18 players still on the course.
Tambellini was an exempt member of the Nationwide (then Buy.com) Tour last season, and holds conditional status on the Nationwide this year. He played in a pair of Canadian Tour events last season, finishing T2nd at the Texas Classic before a T10th at the Scottsdale Swing at McCormick Ranch. On Thursday, Tambellini made a return visit to the Lone Star State in what was a bit of a homecoming for him.
Its nice to get back out here again and see some friendly faces, said Tambellini. I have a lot of good friends out here, and this is certainly a nice way to make my return.
With a steady drizzle falling for most of the day, Tambellini didnt let the conditions affect him early with a 4-under 30 on the front side. After missing five putts inside 25 feet that would have seen him flirting with the course-record 62, Tambellini hit his approach from 96 yards on the final hole to within a foot before tapping in the birdie putt.
Confidence breeds even more confidence, and sure, the way I was playing, it could have been lower, he added. But you will always say that. Whether you shoot 60 or 70, the day you stop critiquing your game is the day you should hang up your clubs.
Coming off a disappointing 2002 campaign in which he made just seven of 12 cuts, Heffernan, the 2000 Alberta Amateur champion, didnt focus on golf in the off-season and took a break from the game.
Its been a while since Ive had to sit down for an interview after a round, thats for sure, laughed Heffernan. Last year was awful for me, so I just stayed around Calgary this past winter, played some hockey and got away from golf for a while.
At the tours Vancouver stop last summer, Heffernan suffered a shoulder injury which plagued him for the rest of the season. He is back to feeling 100 per cent and hopes he can carry his momentum into Fridays second round.
It was tough after getting hurt, I had to fight it all through Canada, he said, referring to the tours swing north of the border in 2002. I lost some confidence and that hurt me.
Bohn may want to consider relocating to Austin. The 29-year-old reeled off a tour-record eight straight birdies last season at nearby Circle C Ranch en route to a second-place showing.
I sure like playing here in Austin, said the two-time Canadian Tour champion, who garnered worldwide attention by carding a final-round 13-under 58 to win the 2001 Bayer Championship. That was a great round here last year, so I hope we can do it again. Its a good start. We always say the score could have been lower- but it could have been higher, as well.
Harris, who captured Most Improved International Player honors in 2002, spent most of the off-season working out while fine-tuning his game for this season. After losing in a playoff to Hank Kuehne at the TELUS Quebec Open, Harris knows he may be on the edge of nailing down his first tour triumph.
I am very pleased with the way that I have been playing, and I try not to think about what is going to happen down the road, said Harris, who added two other top-10s in 2002. Ill just hit my shots and go from there. I had my chances last year, and that is all I can ask. Hopefully I can finish it off soon.