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Defending Champion Back on Top

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Defending champion Frank Lickliter II fired a 9-under-par 63 Thursday to lead after the opening round of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
Per-Ulrik Johansson stumbled to a double bogey at the ninth, his last, to join Steve Allan, Mark Hensby and Carlos Franco in a tie for second place at 7-under-par 65.
Lickliter, who used a 63 in the second round of this event last year en route to his second career victory on the PGA Tour, jumped out of the gate at Omni Tucson National with a birdie at the par-4 first under optimal scoring conditions.
'This is the nicest day I've ever played out here weather-wise,' said Lickliter. 'All the practice rounds, tournament rounds previously, this is the nicest day I think I've ever seen.'
He added three more birdies on the front nine and reached 5 under with a birdie at the par-5 10th.
Lickliter then caught fire late on the back nine. He picked up a birdie at the 13th and followed that up with a birdie at the very next hole after his approach to the par-4 14th landed within five feet of the cup.
The 34-year-old played his third shot to six feet at the par-5 15th and drained the putt to make it three in a row.
At the par-4 16th, Lickliter dropped his second inside five feet and converted the putt for his fourth consecutive birdie to secure the outright lead.
Johansson started at the 10th and collected two birdies and a bogey over his first nine holes before going on a tear on the front side.
The Swede ran off three consecutive birdies from the first and added an eagle at the par-4 fifth to move to 6 under. Johansson kept on rolling with birdies at the sixth and the seventh before his second shot to the par-5 eighth found a greenside bunker.
Johansson hit out of the sand to two feet and tapped in for his third consecutive birdie to join Lickliter at minus-9.
The 37-year-old found trouble at his closing hole, however, and walked away with a double bogey for his share of second.
Franco, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied each of his first two holes and reached 4 under after his approach to the par-5 eighth stopped within five feet of the hole for an eagle.
The 38-year-old added four birdies and a bogey on the inward half to finish two shots off the pace.
'Every first round is good for confidence,' said Franco. 'The weather today is excellent and the course condition is not looking too difficult.'
Angel Cabrera, Brian Henninger, Harrison Frazar, Bill Glasson, Mike Heinen, Tim Clark, Olin Browne and Vaughn Taylor finished in a tie for sixth at 6-under-par 66.
John Daly continued his resurgence on Thursday with an opening-round 67. Daly, who won his first PGA Tour event in nine years two weeks ago at the Buick Invitational and followed that with a strong showing last week at Riviera, did his damage early with three birdies and a bogey over his first five holes.
Daly reached the green in two easily at the par-5 eighth and converted a 14-foot putt for an eagle. He added a birdie at the 10th before parring his last eight holes to finish at 5 under par.
'It's nice to start out good. Of course, if you hit the fairways you can go low, but I struggled a little bit on the back nine with my irons,' said Daly. 'But it's a great start. I'm happy with it.'
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