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First-round play a pick six

GOLF: Romero, Zoeller, Crenshaw, Haas, Purtzer and Eaks lead after round one Friday with six-under-par 65s.

March 10, 2007|By Dominic Perrone

NEWPORT BEACH — Hopefully the sprinklers work at Newport Beach Country Club because the Champions Tour field in the Toshiba Classic torched the course in the first round Friday.

A Toshiba-record six players shot six-under-par 65. While not near a record for a round at the tournament it does put the six on pace to break the three-round tournament record of 15-under.

Eduardo Romero, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ben Crenshaw, Jay Haas, Tom Purtzer, the 2004 Toshiba Classic champion, and R.W. Eaks reached their 65s in a variety of ways. Purtzer holds the record for a round at Toshiba with a 60, which he opened with on the way to the victory in '04.

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For the rest of the competition, the sextet will be trying to outdo Hale Irwin. Irwin, a two-time champion of the Toshiba Classic, has the best three-round tournament record at 196, when he won in 2002. He also won in 1998. Irwin will have to make up some ground. He is tied for 28th with six others at 69.

Though Romero, Zoeller, Crenshaw, Haas, Purtzer and Eaks were hot, 27 players are within three shots of the lead.

Zoeller and Romero watched each other move up the leaderboard. They were in the same three-man group, along with Bob Gilder, and the pair lit up the back nine as they began their day on No. 10. Zoeller wrapped up his first nine holes at four-under with five birdies.

Even though Zoeller gained command of his back nine he still bogeyed on the 339-yard, par-four first hole.

"It was like the pig and the hog on that hole," Zoeller said. "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. I tried to be too aggressive and be a hog and I got slaughtered."

Romero scorched the back nine as well, making the turn at four-under. He picked it up on the front nine, with birdies on the first three holes and reached seven-under through the first 12 holes before cooling off.

"My putting was working today," said Romero, who is from Argentina. "It's just the first round so there are still two more rounds to go. [Today] I'm going to approach it exactly the same. I'm going to have aggressive tee shots."

For Crenshaw, Friday was just a continuation. Crenshaw finished the round with six birdies and no bogeys, leading a Champions Tour tournament for the first time after the opening round.

"I had a nice rhythm going," Crenshaw said. "I was trying my best to stay on balance. I've played some really nice shots over the last couple of days. Timing, rhythm and balance is what we try and work on."

Haas and Eaks remained steady through the round, hanging out at the top of the leaderboard for the duration. A bogey on No. 16 kept Eaks from taking the overall lead while Haas, last year's Charles Schwab Cup champion, went bogey free, posting six birdies.

Purtzer rode a roller coaster to the top of the leaderboard. He had three bogeys, but also was tied for tops on the day with seven birdies. Purtzer eagled No. 3 as well.

Morris Hatalsky, Peter Jacobsen and Allen Doyle, the 2000 Toshiba Classic champion, are locked at 4-under.

"I didn't putt that well, but the putts I needed to make I made," said Doyle who made 17 of 18 greens. "I have always played well here. I wouldn't say I expected it though. A round is a round. If you're going to have a chance to win you're going to have to play well every round."

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