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Hot stretch gives Derek Lamely a 63 and the lead at Bob Hope Classic

He goes seven under during a six-hole run for a one-shot edge over J.J. Henry and Jhonattan Vegas. New putter helps Boo Weekley shoot a 65.

January 19, 2011|By Diane Pucin

It was a day for experimenting.

Derek Lamely, a 30-year-old with a crew cut and little name recognition, eagled a par-five Wednesday on the Palmer Private course during the Bob Hope Classic by using a new hybrid club. That eagle was enough to give Lamely a first-round score of nine-under-par 63 and a one-shot lead after 18 of holes of the 90-hole event.

Tied for fourth, two shots behind Lamely, was Boo Weekley, a truth-teller who said he has a new putter this week, his first new putter since 2006. Why the change? "I ain't been making nothing," Weekley said. "The last 36 holes [last week in Honolulu], I felt like I was holding a rattlesnake."

The Hope tournament is lacking in big-name power. While it was announced Wednesday that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will make their 2011 debuts next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Matt Kuchar, ranked No. 13 in the world, and 33rd-ranked Bubba Watson are the best players in this 128-man field.

Kuchar and Watson are in a 10-way tie for 10th place at six-under 66.

It was Lamely, ranked 202nd, who starred Wednesday on a bright, hot, windless day that was perfect for golf. In fact Lamely played nearly perfect golf for six holes.

Starting with No. 2 on the Palmer Course (it was the 11th hole Lamely played because he began his round on the back nine), Lamely went birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie.

What stood out for Lamely in that hot-scoring stretch was his result with his new club, a Callaway hybrid. "It goes as far as my normal two-iron," Lamely said, "but it's a lot easier to hit."

Lamely, who won the Puerto Rico Open last year for his first victory, landed his second shot on the 562-yard par-five sixth hole within 16 feet of the cup and made the eagle putt.

Tied for second one shot behind are veteran J.J. Henry and Jhonattan Vegas, a 26-year-old playing only his fifth PGA Tour event. Vegas was born in Venezuela and moved to the U.S. in 2002. He learned golf by playing with a broomstick for a club and a rock for a ball.

Weekley, whose best finish here in three appearances was a tie for eighth, credited the new putter for helping him score well. The club is called "Never Compromise Gambler," Weekley said. "It's 34 inches long and I practiced with it Tuesday."

Why switch from the putter he had used since 2006?

"I didn't make nothing last week, I didn't make a whole lot at the end of last year," he said.

Weekley said that last week in Hawaii he felt he should have challenged for the title instead of finishing tied for 27th. "I promise you I felt like I would have finished top three if not won that tournament [except for putting]," he said.

Last week in Hawaii Weekley averaged nearly 31 putts a round. He needed only 28 Wednesday. That new putter seemed to work. At least for the day.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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