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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Elkington Stays on Target in Players Championship

March 28, 1997|From Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Steve Elkington plopped a double bogey into an otherwise flawless performance Thursday but still shot a six-under-par 66 for the first-round lead at The Players Championship.

Elkington was a stroke ahead of Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Fuzzy Zoeller, David Edwards and Russ Cochran on a day when hitting fairways meant making birdies.

And missing them meant disaster.

"I had one bad hole," said Elkington, who played the back nine first and hit 12 of 14 fairways. "I hit it into the water in No. 18." He pulled a two-iron second shot from 220 yards into the hazard.

With all of the world's top 50 players chasing the $630,000 first prize, it was perhaps no surprise that the snarl at the top of the leader board was as thick as the tangled rough on the Stadium Course at the TPC.

Ernie Els, Jay Haas and Sandy Lyle were in a group of 10 players bunched two strokes behind, at 68. In all, 19 players shot in the 60s, and 57 bettered par, among them Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples and Greg Norman, all of whom shot 71.

"You can really take advantage of the good conditions if you hit the fairway," Lehman said about the soft landing areas, receptive greens and gentle wind.

He hit 12 of 14 fairways, but when he missed on the 12th hole, he paid.

"Hit a bad drive, bad second, bad third, bad fourth, bad fifth and tapped in for a bad sixth," Lehman said.

Curtis Strange perhaps demonstrated best the need to drive the ball accurately. He missed half of the fairways and shot an 81.

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