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SPORTS WEEKEND

'Worst' Leaves Sutton First After Tricky First Round

March 24, 2000|From Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Pants whipping, eyes weary, Hal Sutton trudged off the 18th green Thursday with a one-stroke lead in the Players Championship.

His three-under-par 69 was the worst score to lead after the first round since the tournament moved to the TPC at Sawgrass 19 years ago.

Only 13 players broke par. Twenty-two players signed for an 80 or worse.

"This is what I think makes this a major," said Sutton, his face etched with exhaustion after spending nearly five hours on a course that chewed up the best players in the world.

As for that talk from Colin Montgomerie that everyone is playing for second if Tiger Woods gets off to a good start? Well, Woods was only two strokes back after his first double bogey in 223 holes, but no one conceded him anything.

"This golf course has got all the challenges in the world," Sutton said. "I find it difficult just to manage my own game, much less worry about what somebody else's game is doing."

Sutton figured out when to attack and when to take his lumps on a cool, blustery day in which the players averaged 4.28 strokes over par.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, no stranger to demanding conditions, was among seven players at 70. Woods, tied for the lead after 16 holes, hit into the water on the island-green 17th for double bogey and had a 71.

Omar Uresti was at two under through 16 holes when play was suspended by darkness with 21 players still on the course.

The Players Championship isn't a major, despite its $5-million purse and all-world field. Still, most players consider it similar to one.

And like a major, there were plenty of horror stories:

* Craig Stadler had a double-hit out of the rough on No. 12 that led to a triple bogey. He made another on the 16th when he chunked a wedge about four feet, then got so fed up that he swatted his ball over the green and into the water.

"I did a few things I've never done," Stadler said.

* Chris Perry had a chance to tie for the lead with an eagle putt on No. 11. Four putts later, he had a bogey.

* Defending champion David Duval bogeyed five of eight holes and had a 75.

"It's not that great of a score," he said. "I'm not particularly pleased. But at the same time, it's not terrible on a day like this. It's a long race."

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