Kevin Sutherland, Tim Herron, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, Glen Day, Willie Wood and South African Tim Clark each opened in 5-under-par 67 to grab hold of the 18-hole lead.
Two courses are in rotation this week, the Omni Tucson National and The Gallery. Of the leaders, only Herron played The Gallery course on Thursday.
On the other hand, five of the six players tied for seventh place competed on The Gallery. Neal Lancaster, Germany's Bernhard Langer, Olin Browne, Harrison Frazar and Japan's Kaname Yokoo all carded 4-under-par 68s; as did 2001 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange, who took his 68 strokes along Tucson National, Thursday.
Ogilvy and Clark are rookies on the 2001 PGA Tour. Ogilvy earned his Tour card by finishing tied for 14th at the Qualifying Tournament, while Clark won twice on the 2000 Buy.Com Tour, finishing the season third on the money list.
'It's a whole different setup,' said Clark, who played in the 1998 Masters after winning the 1997 Public Links title. 'Playing Augusta is just a dream, and I didn't go there with any expectations. But now I'm a professional. I have to come out and play well and perform, keep my card and stuff.'
Forty-four players are within three strokes of the first-round lead, including John Daly. The former British Open and PGA champion birdied six of his first eight holes before bogeying the 9th, 11th, 16th and 17th holes to finish at 2-under-par 70.
Sutherland was the only player to reach 7-under on Thursday. Still in search of his maiden Tour triumph, the six-year Tour veteran birdied seven of his first 13 holes, but errant drives at the 14th and 18th holes cost him a couple of strokes.
'The course is in beautiful shape, but it is playing tough,' said Sutherland, who played Tucson National. 'The wind is blowing, and club selection is tough. I played very well. I hit the ball very solid.'
Ogilvy also bogeyed the 18th at Tucson National. However, earlier in his round, the 23-year-old chipped in from 15 and 25 feet, and holed a sand wedge for birdies.
'Two chips and a sand iron,' Ogilvy said. 'That's three greens with no putts.'
Amidst all the lesser-known players stand a pair of past major champions. Two-time U.S. Open winner Strange and two-time Masters winner Langer are just one stroke off the 18-hole lead.
This is the first year since 1976 that Strange is not a full-time PGA Tour member. He declined to use his top-50 on the career money list exemption, instead saving it for a year in which he will not have the worries of being Ryder Cup captain.
Langer, in turn, has said he will play more stateside events in 2001. The 43-year-old hasn't played in more than 10 PGA Tour events in a single season since 1989.
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