Chris DiMarco, J.J. Henry and Stuart Appleby each fired 6-under-par 65s to lead after the first round of the Kemper Insurance Open. All three men recorded a host of birdies, but none went unscathed.
Lee Porter, Bob Estes and Frank Nobilo are all one off the pace after a trio of 5-under 66s. Mark OMeara, who hasnt won on the PGA Tour since the 1998 British Open, is in tie for seventh place following a 4-under 67. OMeara is making his first start since the death of his mother, two weeks ago.
There were some times I was thinking out there on the golf course that I need to stay focused and positive because thats what my Mom would want me to do, OMeara said.
DiMarco has yet to win in 2001, but has had an impressive season. The 32-year-old shot 65-69 to lead through 36 holes of his first Masters Tournament. He ended the event in 10th place; one of four top-10 finishes this year.
Thursday, he bogeyed two of his first five holes, but moved to the top of the leaderboard thanks to eight birdies over his final 13 holes.
DiMarco recorded four birdies in a row down the stretch, however, Appleby bettered him.
Starting on the back nine, Appleby opened with a bogey at the par-4 10th. He then responded with six straight birdies beginning at the par-4 12th.
After making the turn in 5-under 30, the 30-year-old Australian traded two bogeys for three birdies on his inward half.
Appleby, a winner of this event in 1998, needed a bit of course knowledge on Thursday.
They ran out of yardage books in the pro shop, he said, pulling out a single sheet of paper on which he kept notes from his hip pocket. So this is it.
Henry also carded nine birdies and three bogeys in the first round. The 26-year-old rookie graduated from the Buy.Com Tour by finishing 13th on the 2000 money list.
He made a return trip last week when he didnt earn an invitation into the MasterCard Colonial. Henry was tied for the lead through 54 holes of the Richmond Open, but stumbled in the final round to finish fourth.
Still the result was a positive one. In 12 starts on the big tour, Henry has missed eight cuts and has failed to record a top-20.
Who knows? said Henry. This tournament, in a way its got to be rewarding to rookies, looking back at whos won the last couple of years. Youve had numerous first-time winners here. Its got to be in the back of your mind, something positive to feed off of.
Tom Scherrer collected his first career tour title at this event last year; Rich Beem did the same in 1999.
A host of players are tied at 3-under-par, including Phil Mickelson. The left-hander has seven top-3 finishes this season, with one victory ' the Buick Invitational.
I felt like I threw quite a few shots away on the greens, but I played well to shoot 3-under, Mickelson said.
Full-field scores from the Kemper Insurance Open