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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Nicklaus Still Not Acting His Age

April 17, 1998|From Associated Press

Jack Nicklaus, fresh off his exciting Masters run, holed a nine-iron from 138 yards for an eagle at the first hole Thursday and went on to a four-under-par 68 and a share of the first-round lead of the PGA Seniors' Championship at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Nicklaus got off to the great start on the 6,722-yard Champion course at the PGA National Golf Club and finished tied with two-time defending champion Hale Irwin.

Gil Morgan, a three-time winner this year on the Senior PGA Tour, and Larry Nelson, who won the 1987 PGA Championship on this course, were one stroke back.

"I've played so poorly the last two years, it's kind of fun to play well again," Nicklaus said.

After his spectacular start, Nicklaus made four birdies, all on putts from inside 10 feet, and two bogeys, twice missing eight-footers for par.

Nicklaus was grouped with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, two of his oldest and best friends and his great rivals of another era. They were golf's Big Three 30 years ago, but neither Player nor Palmer could keep up with the 58-year-old Nicklaus on Thursday. The 62-year-old Player, who made the cut at the Masters last week, shot a 73 and the 68-year-old Palmer had a 77.

"After the first hole," Nicklaus said, "I turned to Gary and said 'I'm leading after one hole. Now I just have to hold on for 71 more holes.' "

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Jay Haas and John Huston, who played in the Masters last week, were tied for the MCI Classic lead at 66 with Doug Tewell, who entered the Nike Shreveport Open a week ago just to get some practice.

Nick Price, the defending MCI champion, was next at 67 with Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Glen Day, Frank Lickliter and Kelly Gibson.

Masters champion Mark O'Meara was cheered everywhere he went in the event at Hilton Head Island, S.C., even for bad shots, and stood four strokes behind at 70.

"Today was a little bit tough," he said. "You could feel a little bit of letdown coming on. But I hung in there pretty well and hit a relatively decent score."

Huston has not won since the 1994 Doral-Ryder Open and is playing this season as one of the PGA Tour's top 50 career money winners.

Tewell won at Harbour Town in 1980 but has had only two top-10 finishes in 16 appearances since.

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Meg Mallon, fighting a cold, tied LPGA records with 11 birdies and a 10-under 62 to take a three-stroke lead after the opening round of the Myrtle Beach Classic at Murrells Inlet, S.C.

"It was the best round of golf I've ever played in my life," said Mallon, who won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Open in 1991 but has only two victories in the past four seasons.

Only a four-foot putt that slipped past the edge of the cup on her final hole kept Mallon from becoming the first LPGA golfer to shoot a 61.

Cindy McCurdy was second with a 65 at the Wachesaw East Golf Club, while Catrin Nilsmark was third at 66. Another stroke back were Nabisco Dinah Shore champion Pat Hurst, Stephanie Lowe and Hollis Stacy.

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