Paul Stankowski, who missed the cut in his last two events, shot a six-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead in the unfinished first round of the BellSouth Classic on Thursday in Duluth, Ga.
Stankowski completed his round less than an hour before darkness halted play with 39 players still on the course and having to return this morning to complete the round. The round was delayed for just under two hours shortly after it began because of lightning during a thunderstorm.
The rain didn't have much effect on the course, which dried out quickly.
Stankowski, who won this event in 1996 when it was played at the Atlanta Country Club, took the lead on the hilly, 7,259-yard TPC at Sugarloaf course with a strong putting game.
"I didn't hit the ball really well," he said. "I struggled with the driver, but the fairways are so big and there's not a whole lot of rough. It was one of those days that could have been a 72 in a heartbeat, but I am thankful it was not.
"It was more like my 'D' game but it was my 'A' putting game. I rolled it well. I chipped it well. It was fun to get the ball in the hole."
He had plenty of challengers.
Phil Mickelson, winner of this year's Buick Invitational, led a group at 67 that also included Kenny Perry, Blaine McCallister, Steve Jones, Jay Don Blake and Jean Van de Velde, the French golfer playing his ninth event in the U.S. as he prepares for the Masters next week.
Nick Price headed a group at 68 that also included Gary Nicklaus, son of Jack Nicklaus. Gary has missed five cuts in nine tournaments this year with his best finish a tie for 28th in the Honda Classic. His round included an eagle on the 541-yard fourth when he chipped in from 40 feet.
"It was the best ball-striking round I had all year," Nicklaus said. "I missed only two or three shots all day."
Defending champion David Duval struggled to a 73. Paul Azinger led a group of nine at 69, defending Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal shot 71 and Justin Leonard 72.
Jim Ahern, whose success at top-dollar golf camps far outweighs his success as a tour pro, is close to catching up. He shot a seven-under 65 for a one-stroke lead over Tom Kite and Walter Morgan in the first round of the Tradition in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Only a handful of others were close as the Cochise Course at Desert Mountain, set up for the first Senior PGA major of the season, played tougher than Ahern could remember.
"If you drive it in the rough here, you've got problems," said Ahern, a resident of nearby Paradise Valley. "They've got some thick rough. They had to be spending some money on fertilizer here, I'll tell you, because that rough is tough."
Ahern, seeking to improve on a string of so-so performances in seven previous events this year, broke out of a three-way tie with Kite and Morgan with the last of his eight birdies on No. 16.
Larry Nelson was alone in fourth at 68, with Jay Sigel, Bob Dickson, and Vicente Fernandez at 69.
Kite had the second-best round of his rookie season, but the course took a toll of other noted players.
Four-time Tradition winner Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course, was eight shots off the pace in a group that also included two-time Tradition champion Gil Morgan, defending champion Graham Marsh and Senior rookie Lanny Wadkins.
Bruce Fleisher, the only player to win two titles this year, shot 74, and Hale Irwin, who won 21 times in three previous seasons, continued his 2000 struggles with a four-over 76.