Bubble Boy Leads Tour Championship


PRATTVILE, Ala. -- Todd Barranger fired a 7-under 65 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Buy.Com Tour Championship. Barranger is two strokes ahead of Mike Heinen, Eric Meeks and Jason Gore.
Barranger, who currently stands 15th on the Buy.Com money list, is hoping for a big week that will secure his spot in the top 15. The top 15 players on the money list after the Tour Championship receive full exemptions to the PGA Tour for the 2003 campaign.
'I'm not battling the nerves like I was last year - the what-ifs, the who's doing this and who's doing that,' said Barranger, who improved his first-round score from a year ago by 20 strokes. 'I'm just focused on what I'm doing. Last year was a huge learning experience for me.'
Barranger started his round with a birdie at the second. He later birdied the seventh and eighth to move to 3-under, as he and the rest of the field battled light, but steady rain throughout the day.
The 2001 Buy.Com Dayton Open winner notched birdies on back-to-back holes twice on the back nine. He moved to 4-under with a birdie on 12 and followed that with a birdie at the par-3 13th.
Barranger later birdied the par-3 16th and the par-5 17th to cap his bogey-free round of 65.
'I'm very happy with the way the day went,' Barranger said. 'It's kind of weird because this golf course will not let you be aggressive. But the wind forced me to hit driver out there today because I didn't want to have 240 yards into each green.'
Gore is one of four men at this event looking for his third win of the season. Gore, Cliff Kresge, Patrick Moore and Arron Oberholser are the two-time winners on the Buy.Com Tour this season. If one of these four were to win this event, they would gain the automatic 'Battlefield Promotion' to the PGA Tour.
Gore started his round on fire. He birdied one, three and four to quickly get to 3-under. After a pair of pars, Gore birdied the final three holes on the front side to make the turn at minus 6.
Gore, who won the Oregon Classic and the Boise Open this year, dropped a shot at the 11th. He later recovered with a birdie at 17, but faltered at the last with another bogey to end a 5-under.
'I made every putt I looked at on the front side,' said Gore. 'Then I just held on the rest of the round.'
Roland Thatcher and Aaron Baddeley are three strokes off the pace at minus 4. Jeff Klauk, Keoke Cotner, Jason Caron and Charles Warren are one behind that pair at 3-under-par.
Andy Sanders, Charles Raulerson, John Maginnes, Barry Cheesman, Gavin Coles, Tag Ridings, Doug Barron and Oberholser, who claimed the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship and the Utah Classic, all stand at minus 2.
Moore, who won the Richmond Open and the Lake Erie Charity Classic, leads a group of seven players at 1-under.
Kresge opened with a 3-over 75 on Thursday.
David Morland IV, who won the weather-shortened Southern Open last week to get into the Tour Championship, leads a group of five players at even par.
Full-field scores from the Buy.Com Tour Championship