Smyth McCord Share Kroger Lead


Kroger ClassicMAINEVILLE, Ohio -- Ireland's Des Smyth and Gary McCord each fired rounds of 7-under-par 65 Friday to share the opening-round lead of the Kroger Classic at the TPC at River's Bend.
Tom Kite, David Eger and Doug Tewell shared third place after opening rounds of 6-under 66.
The start of the tournament was delayed almost five hours due to fog. All 77 players completed their first rounds, and 50 golfers broke par in the opening round.
Smyth, a tour rookie last year, started slowly on Friday with one birdie in his first six holes. He then ran off six consecutive birdies from the seventh, one off the Champions Tour record this season that Fuzzy Zoeller set in the final round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Smyth, a two-time Ryder Cupper for Europe, three-putted the 16th green for a bogey. He rebounded at the par-5 18th when his drive landed in a fairway bunker. Smyth laid up, then hit an 8-iron 2 feet from the hole to set up the easy birdie.
'It was a nice way to finish,' said Smyth. 'Six is good. I'm normally happy if I get three in a row. I had a very good day today.'
Smyth has only notched two top-10s in his 2004 campaign and needs some high finishes if he is to maintain his status next season on the 50-and-over circuit.
'I'm in dire need of a good tournament,' admitted Smyth. 'I played very well last year, but didn't win. I thought I would take a step forward this year, but I took two steps backward.'
McCord, a broadcaster for CBS, ran home a 15-foot birdie putt at the second and followed two holes later with a tap-in birdie. He drained an 8-footer for birdie at six, then closed his front nine with back-to-back birdies from 30 feet and 4 feet, respectively.
McCord kept his hot streak going on the second nine. He sank a 10-footer for birdie at the 10th, then made it four birdies in a row with a 4-footer at No. 11.
Things fell apart for McCord after the birdie at 11. He drove into a fairway bunker at the 14th and two-putted for bogey from 40 feet. McCord reclaimed the lost stroke at the 215-yard, par-3 16th when his 3-iron tee ball stopped 12 feet from the cup. He holed that putt to join Smyth in a share of first.
'I'm really hitting the ball well,' said McCord. 'I managed my game pretty good all day. I started good and then slowed down at the end. If I can do what I did today the rest of the week, I'll be fine.'
McCord is in the same position as Smyth in terms of his card next season. He cannot add tournaments to his schedule due to his commitment to CBS, so McCord needs to take advantage of the events where he is entered.
'I'd love to win,' said McCord, who has two wins on the Champions Tour and four top-20s this season. 'That's a goal in the last five weeks - I can have access without asking for sponsor's exemptions.'
Mike Smith, Lonnie Nielsen, Bob Murphy, Mike Reid, Leonard Thompson and Bruce Summerhays are tied for sixth place at 5-under-par 67.
Defending champion Gil Morgan carded a 3-under-par 69 and is part of a group tied for 16th.
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