Petersen on Top in Arkansas

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Nationwide TourFORT SMITH, Ark. -- Scott Petersen took advantage of the calm conditions early Thursday morning as he shot a 6-under-par 64 to grab a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Rheem Classic. Brian Claar, Zach Johnson and Franklin Langham share second place at 5-under-par 65.
 
The conditions worsened as the day went on, with winds whipping through the course and occasionally gusting as high as 30 m.p.h. The morning group of players combined to shoot 28-over par, while the afternoon set of players were an incredible 175-over par. The players were able to take advantage of lift-clean-and-place rules, however, after heavy overnight rain soaked the course.
 
'Any time you can get your hands on the ball, that makes it easier,' said Petersen. 'Sometimes you get that feeling on the greens. I got that today and started thinking I would make them all.'
 
Boo Weekley and Stephen Gangluff both fired rounds of 4-under-par 66 to share fifth place with Brad Fabel, Ryuji Imada and Bruce Vaughan.
 
Petersen, who teed off in the first group in the morning, began his round on the back nine of the Hardscrabble Country Club. He struggled with his consistency as he carded three birdies and two bogeys on that nine.
 
He started well with birdies at the 11th and 13th, but dropped a shot with a bogey at the par-4 14th. Peterson quickly recovered with another birdie at the next, but faltered again with a bogey at the 16th.
 
Around the turn, Petersen settled down. He birdied the par-4 first to get to 2-under for his round. He began his climb up the leaderboard with consecutive birdies from the par-5 third.
 
Petersen went on to birdie the par-5 sixth before rolling in his final birdie at the par-4 seventh.
 
'The rough is so deep here. Luckily, I avoided it,' said Petersen, who won the 2000 Inland Empire Open. 'I've been here in the past when we played the tournament in August when there isn't any rough. It's a whole different golf course this time around.'
 
Johnson also began his round on the back nine and would have had the lead by himself if not for a double bogey on No. 18. He started quickly by notching three birdies in a four-hole span from the 11th, but had trouble at the last.
 
On 18, Johnson's tee ball found the rough. He tried to run his shot onto the green, but only advanced his second shot 10 feet.
 
'I played dumb on 18,' said Johnson, who is searching for his first Nationwide Tour victory. 'I got greedy and tried to hit a 5-iron out of the rough and run it up there. I wound up hitting it about 10 feet. Then I had to gouge it out again with a sand wedge. The rough is very penalizing.'
 
On the front side, Johnson birdied the first and third to get back to minus-3. He later rolled in back-to-back birdies from the fifth to join Langham and Claar in second place.
 
Claar and Langham had similar opening rounds. They both posted five birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. Claar began on the back nine with a bogey at the 10th. He then eagled the 11th, before running off three straight birdies from the 12th to move to minus-4.
 
After a birdie at No. 18, Claar recorded four straight pars. He then birdied the par-4 fifth. However, he dropped a shot at the seventh which cost him a chance at the lead.
 
Langham started his round with a bogey at the 10th. He made up for that mistake with back-to-back birdies from the 11th. He dropped back to even par, however, with a bogey at the par-4 14th.
 
Around the turn, Langham caught fire. He eagled the par-5 third and later rolled off three straight birdies from the sixth to finish in a tie for second.
 
Eric Meeks and Hunter Haas both fired rounds of 3-under-par 67 to share 10th place with David Edwards, Kevin Johnson, Matt Peterson, Mike Sullivan, Scott Gump and Emlyn Aubrey.
 
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