Bates Durkin Tied at Rheem Classic

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04 Rheem ClassicFORT SMITH, Ark. -- Ben Bates and Kevin Durkin each posted rounds of 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Rheem Classic.
 
Aaron Barber, Tom Scherrer and Troy Matteson are tied for third place at 5-under-par 65. Camilo Villegas is alone in sixth place at 4-under-par 66.
 
Bates wasted little time in breaking into red figures on Thursday. He knocked his approach inside a foot at the first to set up birdie, then ran home a 20-footer for birdie at the fourth.
 
The 43-year-old collected back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh, both from inside 10 feet. Bates gave a shot back at the ninth when his approach landed in a greenside bunker.
 
On the back nine, Bates drained a 12-footer for birdie at the par-5 11th. He made it two in a row at No. 12 when he sank a 30-footer. Bates, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour, closed his round with a 10-foot birdie putt at the last and had an easy way to sum up his success on Thursday.
 
'It's always putting,' said Bates, who only needed 24 putts in Round 1. 'When I play at home, I putt really good. I don't walk around the green and look at it from this side and that side. I told myself today, 'I will not walk around to the other side at all.' It worked today.'
 
Durkin played the back nine first on Thursday and started with a pair of birdies, both from 3 feet. He elected to hit an iron off the tee at 14, then hit an 8-iron to 7 feet. Durkin rolled in the birdie putt and parred out for a front-nine 32.
 
Durkin kept the par streak going on his second nine as he parred his first five holes. At the par-5 sixth, Durkin hit a 7-iron to the back, left portion of the fringe. He chipped in for an eagle, which kick-started a run of strong golf.
 
At the seventh, Durkin hit an 8-iron to 6 feet to set up birdie. He recorded back-to-back birdies thanks to another chip-in. At No. 8, Durkin chipped in from 25 feet to take the outright lead at 7 under par.
 
Trouble loomed for Durkin at the ninth. His approach went long and his chip stopped 4 feet from the hole. Durkin missed the putt to fall into a tie for the lead with Bates.
 
'I struggled a little bit, but it was fun though,' said Durkin, whose best finish this year was a tie for eighth at the Virginia Beach Open. 'I hit a lot of greens, but didn't make many putts.'
 
David Branshaw, David Morland IV, John Morse, David Hearn, Dicky Pride, Vance Veazey, David Edwards and 2000 U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney are tied for seventh place at minus-3.
 
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