Only 11 players in the 55-man Tour Championship broke par on Thursday in Dothan, Ala. Veteran Buy.Com member Michael Muehr leads the season finale after carding an opening 5-under-par 67.
Muehr leads Lee Porter and Vance Veazey by one shot after day one. Keith Clearwater, John Kernohan, Donnie Hammond and Lee Rinker are all two shots back after shooting a first-round 3-under-par 69.
At 36th on the money list, Muehr needs at least a second-place finish this week to earn his 2001 PGA Tour card. The top 15 in earnings following the Tour Championship graduate to the big tour.
Thursday, Muehr birdied the home hole to take the outright lead. The 28-year-old Duke Blue Devil carded seven birdies on the day, to just two bogeys.
'I'm playing to win this week,' said Muehr. 'I think when you have that attitude you have a better chance.'
This is Muehr's fourth straight season on the Buy.Com Tour. He has finished no higher than 30th in earnings in his previous three years.
'I'm a veteran here,' Muehr said of his Buy.Com experience. 'It's not a label anyone wants. I just haven't been one of those who has moved up.'
Last year, Muehr qualified for the Tour Championship, yet shot rounds of 78-75-74-70 to tie for 32nd.
Muehr is coming off his best finish of the year in his last start. Two weeks ago, he tied for second at the Inland Empire Open, as did Porter and Clearwater. Both Clearwater and Porter used their Empire finish to vault them into this week's event, thus giving them one final chance to earn their way onto the PGA Tour.
Clearwater currently stands in 49th place on the money list. Porter resides in 53rd position. Both men need to win this week to have a chance of entering the top 15.
Veazey is in the same boat. A runner-up finish won't be enough to collect his 2001 PGA Tour playing privilege. Veazey is currently 43rd on the money list and is in dire need of the $99,000 first-place check.
Rinker, Kernohan and Hammond, all of who are tied for fourth after the first round, rank 26th, 27th and 28th, respectively, on the money list.