Anderson Tops Tight Leaderboard

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Canadian Tour-LargeMODESTO, Calif. -- Stuart Anderson of Edmonton fired a 6-under 66 Thursday to grab the early lead at the Canadian Tours Foster Farms California Classic.

The 27-year-old Anderson will try to build on a one-shot edge when he tees it up in the morning wave Friday. Iain Steel of Malaysia and Americans Mike Grob, Josh Habig and Pat McDonald, a former regular on the Champions Tour, are just one back.

Seven others--Alex Rocha, Michael Harris, Rob Johnson,Ryan Miller, Brien Davis, Eugene Smith and Brad Sutterfield--are at minus-4.

McDonald, playing on a sponsors exemption this week, will celebrate his 55th birthday Friday. The oldest player to win a Canadian Tour event is Ray Stewart, who was 45 when he won twice in 1999.

Anderson was even par after six holes before holing out from a greenside bunker on the par-5 7th to get two shots in the red. After turning at 2-under, Anderson reeled off three birdies in four holes to start his back nine. He had the flat stick working on the greens Thursday, a sharp contrast to last weeks event up the road in Stockton when he three-putted three of his final four holes on Friday to miss the cut by one.

That (finish last week) really left a bad taste in my mouth, said Anderson, who switched to a new putter earlier this week. The hole-out really seemed to get the ball rolling today. Ive been hitting it great for the past couple of weeks, it is just a matter of getting more confidence on the green. I felt it was time for a change, so Ive got the new putter. So far, so good.

In 2002, Anderson, one of the longest hitters on Tour, dropped a playoff heartbreaker to fellow Canadian Matt Daniel at the Telus Edmonton Open, with the runner-up finish his best showing on the Canadian Tour. He placed seventh last month at the Barton Creek Austin Canadian Tour Challenge in Texas and feels if he can keep it straight off the tee at Del Rio, he could be in the thick of things come Sunday afternoon.

On the flip side, players who have a tough time hitting the fairway could be on the outside looking in come the weekend.

This is really a ball-striking course, Anderson added. The greens are just fantastic, but you better hit quality shots off the tee and into the green or you are going to get yourself in trouble.

This is great for me to build momentum. To be in this position after day one is where we all want to be.

Beginning his round on the back nine, Habig jarred a 12-footer for birdie on his opening hole of the day and followed that up with a par-saving 50-footer on number 11. The 28-year-old made the turn at 3-under and stayed away from trouble most of the day, thanks in part to birdies on all four par-5 holes at Del Rio.

Finally, I had something going out there, said Habig, a former Academic All-American at Northwestern University. I felt comfortable today and got into a bit of a groove. Anytime you can get a good start you have to be happy. There isnt a player here that would be disappointed with a 67 to start. You just want to be around to give yourself a chance Sunday afternoon.

Now into his third season on the Canadian Tour, Habig is coming off a less than memorable 2004 campaign in which he made seven of 13 cuts and finished 65th on the money list. . In his 2003 rookie season, Habig had five top-20 showings.

I still havent been able to put a full tournament together, added Habig. In my rookie season, I had a few chances to win but just couldnt finish it. Last year, I took a couple of steps backwards. It felt like I was in the dark out there. I just couldnt get any rhythm going. It took a toll on my confidence.

Steel was cruising right along until hitting a wall on the par-4 ninth, his final hole of the day. Hitting a 7-iron into the green, Steels attempt instead found a sand bunker. It took the 33-year-old two attempts to dig himself out and by the time the dust had settled, he had double-bogeyed the hole to fall to 5-under.

It was a good day'at least for 17 holes, said Steel. I fell asleep on the final hole and it cost me. That hole was a nightmare. It made lunch a little bitter.

Steel won the Nationwide Tours Boise Open back in 1997 and still holds status on that circuit. In 2002, he won a thrilling playoff at the Greater Vancouver Classic but hasnt been able to find the winners circle since. Steel says the Del Rio layout suits his iron game and is hoping to build on his start in Modesto.

The greens are perfect here. There are a lot of birdies to be had. I left a few out there, just as you do every round, but a good start is key to get my confidence going. Vancouver was my last win, so I just want to put four good rounds together and see where I am.

Coming off a win at last weeks Northern California Classic, Californian Jim Seki struggled to an opening-round 82.
 
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  • Full Coverage - Foster Farms California Classic