Curtis Lewis Lead Buick Pack

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PGA Tour (75x100)CROMWELL, Conn. -- Former British Open champion Ben Curtis and J.L. Lewis each fired rounds of 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Buick Championship.
 
Michael Putnam is making his professional debut this week and kicked off his professional career in style. He posted a 5-under-par 65 and is tied for third place with last week's Reno-Tahoe Open winner Vaughn Taylor, Justin Rose, Franklin Langham and Kevin Sutherland at the TPC at River Highlands.
 
Michael Putnam
Michael Putnam had six birdies and one bogey in his professional debut.
Curtis flew out of the gate on Thursday as he knocked a wedge to 5 feet to set up birdie at the first hole. He drained a 25-footer from off the green for his second birdie in a row at the second, then collected his third birdie in five holes with a tap-in at five, thanks to an awesome 3-wood at the par-3.
 
The 2003 British Open winner parred his next five holes then hit his tee ball to 10 feet to set up birdie at the 11th. At the par-5 13th, Curtis reached the green in two and two-putted for his fifth birdie of the round.
 
At the driveable, par-4 15th, Curtis hit a terrible drive into a bunker. He hit another suspect shot, then ran his birdie try 10 feet past the hole. Curtis converted the par save, then hit an 8-iron to 20 feet for his final birdie at the 17th.
 
'It was just one of those days where even though the swing didn't feel as good as it could have been, it was good enough to hit some close shots,' said Curtis. 'When I had the wedges in my hand, I took advantage.'
 
Curtis is playing in this event for the first time since he captured the claret jug. He took some criticism when he pulled out of this event in 2003, but returned in strong form, including a top-35 performance in the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
 
'I didn't want to come in here and just shoot 80-80, say, 'See you guys later,'' said Curtis, referring to his withdrawal two years ago. 'It was just one of those unfortunate events that happened, that I wish I could be here. From now, I'll be here in the future.'
 
Lewis started on the back nine and collected his first birdie at the 13th. He sank a 6-footer for birdie at the 15th, then rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at No. 17.
 
On the second nine, Lewis knocked his approach to 3 feet to set up birdie at two. He hit his second into a bunker at the par-5 sixth, but blasted out to 3 feet and converted the birdie try.
 
Lewis closed his round with a 9-foot birdie putt at the ninth to join Curtis in the lead.
 
'I played well from tee to green. I think I hit every green but one and every fairway but one,' said Lewis, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. 'I putted okay, nothing spectacular. Made a couple of decent putts. I could have actually shot lower today had I had a hot putter.'
 
Lewis has enjoyed an up-and-down 2005 season. He has three top-10s, including a tie for eighth at The Players Championship, and had a great opportunity to win the John Deere Classic.
 
But Lewis has also missed his share of cuts this year. In 24 starts this season, Lewis missed the weekend 10 times, but since a shoulder injury earlier the year has started to heal, Lewis seems poised for strong play.
 
'I think I'm a better player than what I've shown. Hopefully I can finish off strong the rest of the year here,' said Lewis. 'I've had a few kind of bright areas. I've gradually gotten better and better and better. Had some real good weeks in there.'
 
Former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin, Hidemichi Tanaka, Chris Smith and Joe Durant are knotted in eighth place at 4-under-par 66.
 
Woody Austin triumphed in a playoff last year over Tim Herron and opened his title defense with a 1-under-par 69. Austin is tied for 42nd place.
 
Jason Gore, who played in the final group on Sunday at this year's U.S. Open, made his 2005 PGA Tour debut on Thursday. He won three times on the Nationwide Tour and earned the 'battlefield promotion,' but his first round was not a great one.
 
He shot a 4-over 74 and is tied for 133rd place.
 
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