Singh Lowery Share Lead After Tough Thursday

RSS

ATLANTA ' Vijay Singh got a bit of redemption Thursday at the East Lake Golf Club, but hopefully, for his sake, he didnt run his compensation well dry.
 
Singh was one of only two players to birdie the 232-yard, par-3 18th en route to earning a share of the first-round lead in the $5 million Tour Championship.
 
It owed me one in 1998, Singh said of the final hole, where he hit his tee shot inside of a foot this time.
 
Four years ago, Singh had a chance to win the Tour Championship, but bogeyed the 18th when his tee shot bounded over the green. He went on to lose in a playoff to Hal Sutton.
 
It took me a while to get over that one, said Singh, who also tied for third at East Lake in 2000. I would like to win this event, especially, and on this golf course, because Ive had two good finishes. You never know. Well see on Sunday what happens.
 
Hes got a long way to go until then, and plenty of pursuers.
 
Steve Lowery matched Singhs opening score of 5-under 65. Last weekend, Lowery sat at home not knowing whether he would be traveling to Atlanta, Ga., or Madison, Miss., site of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. After missing the cut in the Buick Challenge, he had to wait and see if he could maintain his position inside the top 30 on the money list.
 
He did, and hes once again at the top of the leaderboard - a position hes been in several times this season, but not come Sunday evening.
 
Charles Howell III was the other player to make a two at the last. Hes alone in third place following a 4-under 66.
 
The players competed under the rules of lift, clean and place on a muddy East Lake course. The sun was out and the winds were up, but they werent nearly enough to dry out the layout, which had been saturated with rain over the last month and a half.
 
In fact, the conditions only hampered players efforts to go low.
 
Its just a frustrating day because of the wind, you had the ball in hand but the wind was changing directions a lot, said 1999 champion Tiger Woods.
 
Woods shot 1-over 71, his first over-par round since his Saturday 81 at the British Open, while playing in the same pairing with Phil Mickelson, who had an even-par 70.
 
The worlds top two-ranked players both struggled in Round 1. They each made four birdies, but Mickelson offset them with four bogeys, while Woods made three bogeys and a double.
 
Everybody had to play the same conditions, and I thought it was a fair test,' said 2000 winner Mickelson.
 
Lowery shot a smooth 10-under-par 60 in Tuesdays pro-am. It was the first time he had played a full 18 holes on the East Lake course in over a decade, when he was trying to qualify for the BellSouth Classic, which used to be held at the Atlanta Country Club.
 
I felt like this golf course, you could shoot a low score on it, and I felt like I was playing well enough to do it, Lowery said.
 
Thursday, he wasnt able to match his front-nine 29, but did shoot 31, making four birdies and no bogeys. He dropped his only shot after missing the green at the 10th, but recovered with birdies on 15 and 17.
 
Much of Lowerys success was derived from the fact that he hit 11 of 14 fairways.
 
If you hit it in the rough off the tee, you are probably not going to get it to the green on most of the holes, he said. Its thick and theres a lot of wet ground underneath it.
 
Lowery has had one the best years of his career. Hes made nearly $1.78 million and has a trio of runner-up finishes, but theres one glaring omission ' a victory.
 
The last three years I have really improved my game and stepped it up this year, he said. This year has really not been any different, but I felt like I gave myself opportunities to win this year.
 
Obviously, you know, I didnt win, but I felt good about my chances of winning and how I played down the stretch.
 
Lowerys most memorable opportunity to capture his third tour title came at the International. He made an eagle and a double eagle over the final four holes to give him a chance at the last under the modified Stableford scoring system. Needing birdie for a one-point victory, he missed, and instead lost to Rich Beem by a point.
 
If I had not won tournaments before it would probably have been disheartening. At least I had won some before, he said.
 
Three more days like Thursday and win No. 3 could finally come this week.
 
It would be the biggest win probably for me, he said. If I go out and play my game and play well, Ill have a good chance, just like I have had a few times this year.
 
Singh won this year's Shell Houston Open. And though he didn't match his course-record 63 from the first round in 1998, he made five birdies and no bogeys this time.
 
'I wasn't really looking at the leaderboard much. I just wanted to play a good, solid round of golf, which I did,' Singh said. 'You really just pace yourself for Sunday afternoon.'
 
Full-field scores from The Tour Championship