Bjornstad Grabs Early NWide Lead


Nationwide TourLIVERMORE, California -- Norway's Henrik Bjornstad shot a 5-under 68 Thursday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Nationwide Tour's Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship.
Just 14 months ago, he was challenging at another California venue.
Bjornstad tied for 10th place in the PGA TOUR's 2006 Buick Invitational after holding a lead during the final round at Torrey Pines, eventually finishing three strokes out of a three-man playoff won by Tiger Woods.
The 27-year-old claimed $117,000, but didn't earn enough all season to keep his PGA TOUR card.
A former European Tour member, Bjornstad became the first player from Norway to win a PGA TOUR card when he tied for 13th place at 2005 Q-school.
'I'm focusing on the Nationwide Tour,' he said Thursday. 'I'll play here as much as I can and get my PGA TOUR card back hopefully.'
He's off to a good start.
In last year's event, The Course at Wente Vineyards played as the toughest on the 2006 schedule when Tripp Isenhour won with a 9-under 279 overall score.
Bjornstad is almost halfway to that number after a round that included five birdies and just one bogey.
'I kept the ball in play, which is a key here,' he said. 'There are a lot of vineyards you have to stay away from. You can easily make double (bogeys) or worse out here.'
Bjornstad's highlights included a 45-foot birdie putt at No. 3 and a pair of nine-footers at Nos. 4 and 7.
'The big key today was my putting was really solid,' said Bjornstad, who made the trip around Wente Vineyards with 28 putts. 'I made some nice par saves and some long birdie putts.'
Brad Ott, Omar Uresti and Jon Mills are tied for second place at 3-under 69, one shot ahead of Aron Price, Bob Burns, Jeff Overton, Aaron Watkins, Chris Thompson and Greg Sonnier.
Just 19 players out of 144 broke par Thursday on the 7,185-yard layout, pushing the scoring average to 75.410 -- the highest on the Nationwide Tour since the second round of last June's LaSalle Bank Open.
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