Pampling Leads Riley at Shell Houston

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HUMBLE, Texas -- Rod Pampling fired a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club.
 
Chris Riley is alone in second place after opening with a 5-under 67.
 
Frank Lickliter, Arjun Atwal, Stephen Ames, Deane Pappas and Lucas Glover are knotted in third place at 4-under-par 68.
 
The wind blew very hard for the afternoon tee times, in some cases gusting as hard as 30 miles per hour.
 
That did not impact Pampling, who was in the first group out on Thursday.
 
Pampling began on the back nine in the first round at Redstone and wasted little time in getting into red figures. He sank a 12-footer for birdie at the 10th, then knocked a 7-iron from the right rough to tap-in range at No. 11. Pampling made it three in a row at 12 after once again landing in the rough off the tee. He punched out then hit a 7-iron to 30 feet and holed the long birdie putt.
 
The Australian parred his next two holes but took advantage of the next par-5, the 15th. He wedged his third to 8 feet and drained the putt to move to 4 under par.
 
Pampling parred four holes around the turn but sank another 8-footer for birdie, this time at the second. He played steady par golf until his 18th when he missed the green in two but chipped to a foot for his sixth and final birdie.
 
'I'm just trying to focus and not get ahead of myself,' said the 34-year-old. 'I wasn't out there trying to continually birdie every hole, just play smart. If a birdie comes along, great, you take it.'
 
Pampling, who joined the tour in 2002, finished 68th on last year's money list and has continued his solid play in '04. He has two top-15 finishes, including a tie for ninth at the Bob Hope, and is currently 57th in the money race.
 
'It's been a solid year,' said Pampling, who shared the first-round lead at last year's PGA Championship before tying for 14th. 'I've been playing nice golf. I just haven't finished a tournament off. I just haven't had a really good week yet.'
 
Riley found trouble early in his round on Thursday with a bogey at his second hole, the 11th at Redstone. He ran off three birdies in a row from the 13th, including 30-footers at 13 and 15.
 
Riley's momentum stopped on his front nine when he drove into a fairway bunker at 17. He bogeyed that hole then dropped a shot at the 18th when he missed a 6-foot par save.
 
'The front nine was pretty tough. The wind was blowing a good 20 to 25,' said Riley. 'I shot even par on the windy side and then the backside didn't blow too bad.'
 
The 30-year-old, who won the 2002 Reno-Tahoe Open, immediately reclaimed the lost strokes. He sank a pair of 5-footers for birdies at one and two and was suddenly 2 under on his round.
 
Riley hit an 8-iron to 7 feet to set up birdie at the fifth, then collected back-to-back birdies at eight and nine to get within one of Pampling's lead.
 
Riley lost to John Daly in a playoff this year at the Buick Invitational and thinks the experience will help him get back to the winner's circle in 2004.
 
'I'm practicing hard and working hard and I feel good about my game,' said Riley, who finished last among players who made the cut at the Masters. 'This year I've had a decent year, but the last couple tournaments have been tough.'
 
United States Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton, Steve Pate, John Riegger, Tim Petrovic, Dudley Hart, Joey Sindelar, Patrick Sheehan and Steve Stricker are tied for eighth place at 3-under-par 69.
 
Fred Couples, who returned to the winner's circle for the first time in five years here last year, opened his title defense with a 1-under-par 71. He is part of a logjam in 21st place.
 
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