Young Americans Lead in New Zealand


Americans Bryce Molder and Joel Kribel each fired 6-under-par 66 to lead after Thursday's first round of the Holden Clearwater Classic in New Zealand, the second of two season-opening Buy.Com Tour events to be held Down Under.
The Australasian Tour, which is co-sanctioning the tournament, was well-represented on the leaderboard with New Zealander Steve Alker shooting a bogey-free 67 for a share of second place at 5-under with Australians Nick O'Hern and Peter O'Malley.
Among the 10 players tied with 4-under 68s were Aussies Gavin Coles and Stephen Leaney; Americans Jim Benepe, Kevin Wentworth and Roland Thatcher; and South Africa's Tjaart van der Walt.
Molder, coming off a tough runner-up finish to Coles at the Jacobs Creek Open Championship in Australia last week, got right back in the saddle with flawless round at the Clearwater Resort. The former college standout from Georgia Tech started on the back side and birdied the 12th, 14th and 15th, then added three more birdies over the first five holes after making the turn.
He parred his final four holes, a feat he wished he could have pulled off last Sunday. Leading Coles by one shot with four holes to play in Australia, Molder closed with a quartet of bogeys and lost by two strokes.
'I think I've taken a lot of confidence out of last week's round,' said Molder, 23. 'I thought it was mine with a few holes to go, but I was trying to hit good shots rather than focus on the right shots.
'That's not to take anything away from Gavin, who played great golf, but it was a bit like the one that got away.'
Kribel reeled off three consecutive birdies from the 14th before dropping a shot at the 18th, his ninth hole of the day. Birdies at the second, fifth, sixth and eighth led to a back-nine 32 and a piece of the lead.
He tied for 12th last week at Kooyonga Golf Club, a layout he felt was unique, to say the least.
'I have never played on a course like that with narrow fairways and the wind playing such a factor,' said Kribel, who was more at home Thursday at the Clearwater Resort. 'This course is a lot like an American course with its length and design.'
Kribel, 25, played collegiately at Stanford and was a teammate of Tiger Woods in 1996. He advanced to the finals of the 1997 U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill, where he was beaten by Matt Kuchar, the winner of last week's Honda Classic on the PGA Tour.
Forced out of action midway through the 2001 Buy.Com Tour season because of recurring back problems, Kribel was granted a medical extension for 2002.
He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation Thursday.
O'Malley, who grabbed the spotlight three weeks ago by upsetting the top-seeded Woods in the opening round of the WGC-Match Play Championship, slipped over par with a bogey at the third hole but tallied six birdies the rest of the way for his 67.
Two-time Australian Open winner Aaron Baddeley continued to struggle, posting a 5-over 77 to finish the first round 11 shots back in 141st place. He started with a 12-over 84 a week ago at the Jacob's Creek Open and wound up missing the cut.
Full field scores from the Clearwater Classic