For a few anxious seconds, Nathan Green thought he was going to get off to a bad start Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.
Standing on the opening tee box, Green snap-hooked his drive and appeared to be headed for trouble. However, the Australian's ball hit a rock and bounced back into play.
"From there on, it was all pretty solid," Green told reporters.
Indeed it was.
Green birdied nine of his first 16 holes on his way to a career-best round of 8-under-par 62, giving him a two-stroke lead over the field at La Cantera Golf Club in his first Texas Open start. Winless in three seasons on the PGA Tour, Green is two shots clear of Olin Browne and Paul Claxton heading into Friday's second round at San Antonio.
After his spectacular opening round, Green was probably left wondering why he hasn't played the event before. Last year, he said it was a conflict with the Dunhill Links that kept him away.
"Living in Dallas now, I try and play all the events where you can actually drive to them," Green said. "I'm not a big fan of flying, so I drove down here on Tuesday morning and just got into a bit of a rhythm.
"I felt like I was playing alright Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn't feel great this morning on the range, but it was OK."
Green birdied five holes in a row from Nos. 6-10 without making a putt longer than 15 feet. His 24-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th was his longest holed putt of the day.
"I didn't expect to putt well today," Green said. "Especially with the putting green being pretty fast, the main thing was just not putting any pressure on the second putt. That's what I was thinking about.
"If I could get my speed right early and not leave myself too much hard work — just one of those days — I got the speed early and I didn't have a great deal of work."
Browne has struggled in 2008, making only eight cuts in 24 starts. The 49-year old Ryder Cup captain's assistant came into this week ranked No. 207 on the money list.
Claxton birdied his final two holes to shoot a bogey-free 64 tie Browne for second. Claxton is in search of his first top-10 finish of the season.
Defending champion Justin Leonard carded an even-par 70. It was the first time that the native Texan failed to break par on the first day in the tournament he has won a record-tying three times, sharing the feat with Arnold Palmer.
"I hit the ball pretty well off the tee, but didn't make any putts," Leonard told reporters. "The greens weren't as good as they have been, but they were good enough to make putts."
Greg Kraft, Tim Herron, Jason Gore, Nick O'Hern, Patrick Sheehan and Chad Collins are all tied for fourth at 5-under 65. A total of 10 players are tied for 10th at 4-under 66, including Joe Ogilvie, Bob Tway and Paul Goydos.
But the entire field is chasing Green, whose 62 marked a new career-low round for him on the PGA Tour. His previous best score was an 8-under 63 in the second round of the 2007 John Deere Classic, where he finished tied for third.
Thursday marked the first time in his PGA Tour career that he has held the first-round lead. He owned a one-shot lead after both the second and third rounds of the 2007 John Deere Classic, but finished three strokes back of winner Jonathan Byrd.
Now, the question for Green is what to do for an encore?
"I don't know how to back it up," Green said.
October 10, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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