Jesper Parnevik fired a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 on a day when the wind barely qualified as a breeze. He's tied with Australian rookies Ben Ferguson and Geoff Ogilvy for the 18-hole lead in Coral Springs, Fla.
The Swede, who turned 36 on Wednesday, may feel like a kid again when he looks a little further down the leaderboard. Forty-three-year-old Fulton Allem and 45-year-old Scott Simpson are just one shot off the day one lead after opening in 6-under-par 66.
Simpson, the 1987 U.S. Open champion, missed the entire 2000 season due to a broken ankle. He and Allem are in a six-way tie for fourth place along with 24-year-old former Public Links champion Hunter Haas, J.P. Hayes, Jim Gallagher, Jr., and Bernhard Langer.
Mark Calcavecchia is two back following a 5-under-par 67. He's tied with 11 others, including Joe Durant, who's in search of his third straight PGA Tour victory, and 16-year-old amateur Ty Tryon.
Tryon, a sophomore from Lake Highland High School in Orlando, Monday qualified for this week's event. Thursday, he birdied his final three holes for a 67 in his first career PGA Tour start.
'I'm just incredibly happy to be here, just to play a PGA tournament,' said Tryon, who plays on the same golf team with the sons of John Cook and David Leadbetter. 'Playing well is definitely a plus, but it is awesome.'
Calcavecchia is just two weeks removed from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Fortunately, as a two-time winner of this event, he didn't need a practice round to regain his comfort on the course.
Arriving just 15 minutes before his 7:27am tee time, this year's Phoenix Open champion birdied six of his first 16 holes, before fatigue set in over the final stretch. He bogeyed the par-4 17th and two-putted for par on the par-4 finishing hole.
'I did hit the wall on the 17th tee, it felt like someone just hit me over the head with a hammer,' he said. 'I almost fell asleep out there on 17, but if someone would have told me I was going to shoot 5-under today, I'd be real happy.'
Under normal circumstances, Calcavecchia said he would have skipped this week's Tour stop. But, living just 45 minutes away in West Palm Beach, he considers this a home event. And well he should. He not only lives nearby, but he won the tournament in 1987 when it was played on the TPC at Eagle Trace, and again in 1999 at Heron Bay.
Calcavecchia first noticed the pain in his left knee in the third round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. And, having already gone through two prior surgeries - one on each knee - he was able to diagnosis the injury himself.
In his first competitive round since going under the knife, Calcavecchia sported a brace and a slight hitch in his gait. He also had to tailor his swing a bit.
'I open my left foot a little bit more and I'm probably hands-ing it out there a little more,' said Calcavecchia, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. 'I can't quite clear my left knee and snap it straight shut like I'm used to. But it's alright.'
Much like Calcavecchia, Parnevik is commuting to and from work this week. Jesper resides in Jupiter, just about an hour north of Coral Springs.
He had to wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to make his tee time. But with a newborn in the next room, it didn't prove to be a problem.
Sans sleep, Parnevik needed only 22 putts in his 65 strokes. He gave credit to a device called the Zen Oracle Training System.
'It's like a putter with a doughnut hole in it,' described Parnevik. 'And you put the ball in this hole (in the face) and then you make a normal stroke and then you kind of release the ball towards the hole.
'It's amazing, the feel you get with it. It's helped me a lot.'
Allem was fine with his putter on Thursday; it was his driver that nearly killed him. Allem, who is still riding a 10-year exemption for winning the 1993 NEC World Series of Golf, saw every bit of the Heron Bay layout in the first round. But thanks to a new set of Mizuno blade irons, which he put in his bag on Wednesday, the South African was able to salvage his best round of the season.
The last time Allem warranted a visit to the Tour pressroom, he was the 36-hole leader in the 2000 PLAYERS Championship. He subsequently shot 82-77 over the weekend to tie for 66th.
'Never saw me in the press room again, did you,' joked Allem, who chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 14th on Thursday. 'It's the first round, so I can't tell you (how it feels to be near the lead). It will feel great if I'm sitting over here come Sunday afternoon.'
Following his round, Allem went to the practice range, where he tried out a handful of drivers; one of which will be in use in Round Two.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Dudley Hart opened his title defense in 2-under-par 70. He's tied for 56th place.
*94 players broke par in the first round.
*Geoff Ogilvy and Ben Ferguson are two of 12 Australians in this week's field, which also includes Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott. Baddeley shot a first-round 4-over-par 76. Scott carded a 2-under-par 70.
*Jim Furyk is using a mid-length Bullseye putter, similar to the ones used by Vijay Singh and Paul Azinger. Furyk said he put the club in his bag this week to try and keep him from turning his entire body when he putts. With the putter lodged to his navel, Furyk believes it will help him stroke the ball better by just rotating his shoulders. He needed 27 putts in his first-round 70.
*Chris Tidland withdrew after playing only eight holes on Thursday due to ulcers in his eyes. His doctor advised him to stop wearing his contact lenses.
*16 Eagles were made in the first round of the 2001 Honda Classic. Last year, 16 eagles were recorded in all four rounds combined.
Click here for full-field scores from the Honda Classic