INDIAN WELLS — The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is spread over four different courses, but Indian Wells is the shortest, narrowest and, apparently, the friendliest.
In this $1-million tournament, Indian Wells is the home course, and during Wednesday's first round, there was no place like home.
Two of the top three rounds and three of the best five were recorded on the 6,478-yard course, but nobody played it better than Jay Haas.
Haas shot a 63, nine under par and the best round of his 11-year pro career, for a one-shot lead over Sandy Lyle, who played Bermuda Dunes, and Andy Bean, who also played at Indian Wells.
Two are tied at 65. Keith Clearwater played Bermuda Dunes, which put him in a third-place tie with Andrew Magee, who played Indian Wells. Where else?
David Edwards' 66 at La Quinta was equaled by Steve Pate, the Tournament of Champions winner, on Bermuda Dunes. Paul Azinger, one of eight tied at 67, was the low man at the PGA West Palmer course.
Haas, 34, has won more than $1.6 million since he joined the PGA Tour in 1977. Not only does he have talent, he has a relationship with the game of golf.
Former Masters champion Bob Goalby is his uncle, and Curtis Strange, 1987 leading money winner, was his roommate at Wake Forest.
But on Wednesday, Haas proved he also has a strong bond with his putter.
Haas needed only 23 putts on the 18 greens at Indian Wells. He recorded nine birdies and not a single bogey. He even saved par on the 398-yard No. 17 after his tee shot had bounced off a television truck.
It was one of those days, he said. And what kind was that?
"Just one of those magical days," Haas said.
There was a lot of sun and not very much wind for the first round and that made Indian Wells a comfortable place to play. The fairways are about as thin as an excuse, but that did not bother Haas one bit.
"A few of those fairways are like bowling alleys," he said.
The field will change courses each day until Sunday, when the low 70 pros and ties play the final 18 holes at Indian Wells.
La Quinta, the Palmer course at PGA West and Bermuda Dunes are generally regarded as more difficult than Indian Wells, which is about 400 yards shorter than Bermuda Dunes, the next-shortest course.
The turning point for Haas occurred kind of early. He started on No. 10 and parred it after coming out of a bunker to within 6 1/2 feet of the cup. Haas did two things. He breathed a sigh of relief, then birdied five of the next six holes.
After the first two birdies, from 20 and 15 feet, Haas needed a 12-footer for par on No. 13.
"I didn't want to give it right back," Haas said.
So he didn't. Haas made his putt and continued waving his magic putter above the green. From No. 11 to No. 5, Haas birdied nine of 13 holes.
"I was standing there in the middle of the fairway and I decided to think positive," he said. "I felt like, why not shoot as low as you can when you have the chance. I think anywhere from 18 to 25 under is going to be the number, so why not get them now?"
Bean hasn't been getting them for a while. He toured Bermuda Dunes in 64 strokes, 31 on the back nine, and finished his round with an eagle 3 on the par-5, 505-yard 18th.
Bothered by tendinitis in his right elbow last year, Bean had his worst season since his rookie year in 1976. He won just $73,808 and finished 120th on the money list.
Between the March 1 Doral and the Southern Open in the first week of October, Bean's best finish was a tie for 30th in 13 tournaments. He missed eight cuts and withdrew from another.
"I played in some tournaments," said Bean. "No, actually I made appearances in some tournaments. I really don't feel like I played."
The problem was his elbow. "It blew the whole year for me," he said.
Calcium deposits made Bean's elbow so painful that he couldn't even go fishing for four months. He tried to cast left-handed, but the results were mixed.
"I did hit the water a few times," he said.
What Bean hit in the first round were a whole bunch of greens. With the wind no factor, Bermuda Dunes played very nicely for him.
He already had one birdie when his chip shot stopped two inches short of an eagle on the par-5, 536-yard eighth hole. Bean had birdied that one as well as four others when he got to No. 18.
He hit a driver and a 3-wood, then sank a 15-footer for an eagle that finished a totally surprising day for him.
"It wasn't quite the round I expected," said Bean. "What can you say when you shoot a good round?"
Maybe you say what Lyle did: "I was thumping the ball pretty good."
Lyle, from Scotland, is the 1985 British Open winner. His round of 64 included a 31 on the back nine, which he played first, and if that's not confusing, imagine how he felt about his putting last week.
For the first time in his life, Lyle studied videotapes of his putting. Apparently it helped. He had six birdies and an eagle on the 515-yard eighth hole when he sank a three-footer after his drive and a 3-iron got him close.
Lyle made the most of the shorter Indian Wells course. He used his driver only eight times, choosing a 1-iron on all the other tees except for the three par-3s.
"It feels good," said Lyle. "I can't complain. It beats playing snowballs back home."
THE LEADERS Jay Haas. . . 32-31--63 Andy Bean. . . 33-31--64 Sandy Lyle. . . 33-31--64 Andrew Magee. . . 33-32--65 Keith Clearwater. . . 33-32--65 David Edwards. . . 34-32--66 Steve Pate. . . 33-33--66 THE NAMES Fuzzy Zoeller. . . 35-34--69 Mac O'Grady. . . 34-35--69 Johnny Miller. . . 35-36--71 Arnold Palmer. . . 37-34--71 Raymond Floyd. . . 37-35--72 Craig Stadler. . . 35-38--73 Hal Sutton. . . 37-38--75 Corey Pavin. . . 36-39--75 Calvin Peete. . . 36-39--75