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Relaxed Taylor Leads Heritage

2006 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Feeling less pressure the week after The Masters, Vaughn Taylor fired an 8-under-par 63 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead at the Verizon Heritage.
Playing in front of a home crowd, Taylor missed the cut by one shot at Augusta last week. On Thursday, he peppered the Harbor Town Golf Links with nine birdies during a 13-hole stretch on the way to the third first-round lead of his career.
Ernie Els
Ernie Els is eight back after an even-par 71 in the first round.
'Last week was very nerve wracking...playing in front of the home crowd,' said Taylor, who moved to Augusta as an infant and still lives there. 'I came in this week and it just feels easy. I was really looking forward to The Masters, but I'm glad it's finally over. This week I feel very relaxed.'
Taylor is one shot ahead of Jim Furyk, who opened with a 7-under 64.
Duffy Waldorf, Billy Mayfair and Tom Pernice, Jr. share third place at minus-6. Chris Riley, Brian Gay, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley are all one shot further back in a tie for sixth.
There are 79 players even-par or better after the first round, and 22 are within five shots of the lead.
They are all looking up at Taylor, who began his round on the back nine with five straight pars before collecting four consecutive birdies to make the turn at 4 under.
His first birdie came on a 3-foot putt at the par-5 15th. The next three were all from distances of 15 feet or more, including a 20-footer at the par-4 18th.
Taylor ranked first in putts Thursday, needing only 21 to finish his round.
'It was good to get on a birdie train for a while,' said Taylor, who carded rounds of 75 and 74 at The Masters. 'It was a lot of fun.'
After an errant drive led to a bogey at the par-4 first, Taylor moved back to minus-4 when he made birdie from a bunker at the par-5 second.
It was all pars and birdies for the 30 year old after that, with two of his last four birdies coming on 15-foot putts.
The last time Taylor held a first-round lead he parlayed it into a second straight victory at the Reno-Taho Open. Those two wins stand as his only on the PGA TOUR. He knows he will have to continue shooting low to win here.
'The greens are pretty soft. With no wind, if you're hitting it straight you have a lot of short irons and wedges,' Taylor said. 'You can definitely score if you're hitting the ball well.'
Furyk, after polishing off a bogey-free round, agreed.
'Conditions were good for scoring,' he said.
Two more players who scored well: 50-year-old Loren Roberts, a three-time winner on the Champions Tour this season, fired a 3-under 68; and five-time Heritage winner David Love III, who opened with a 2-under 69.
Defending champion Peter Lonard stumbled to a pair of bogeys on his second nine and ended at even-par 71.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Verizon Heritage
  • Full Coverage - Verizon Heritage