Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Sabbatini leads Barclays with 63

AFP , HARRISON, NEW YORKAFP, AMSTERDAM

South Africa's Rory Sabbatini carded eight birdies without a bogey on Thursday to claim the first-round lead with a 63 at the US$7 million Barclays Classic.

Sabbatini surged heading into the turn, posting four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the West Course of the Westchester County Club in Harrison, New York.

"You know, the course, it's playing easy right now," Sabbatini said. "There's no wind out there and you know, it's pretty much shooting darts at the flags. The greens are receptive and where you land the drives, that's where the ball is going to hit."

"So in a sense it's making it play pretty easy," he said. "A little longer, but still pretty easy."

South Korea's K.J. Choi also made eight birdies, including four on the final five holes, but his bogey at the third accounted for his only blemish. He finished on seven-under 64, tied for second with Rich Beem of the US.

Beem started on the back nine and was one-under through eight holes before carding an eagle on 18. He also finished strong, recording birdies on four of his final five holes.

South African Ernie Els -- a two-time winner of this event -- Brian Gay, Steve Flesch and Sweden's Carl Pettersson were tied on six-under 65.

The Barclays is the first leg of the inaugural FedExCup playoff series.

There is plenty of incentive since a US$10 million bonus will be awarded to the points leader of the series played over four straight weeks, ending with the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each tournament in the series features a US$7 million purse and a US$1.2 million first prize. The other tournaments in the playoff series are the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship -- by which time the field will be whittled from this week's 144 players to 30.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods won't make his entrance in the series until next week. Woods, winner of the PGA Championship two weeks ago at Southern Hills, Oklahoma, decided he needed one more week of rest.

Stefan Langer in disastrous debut

Bernhard Langer turned back the clock to stand three shots off the lead of the KLM Open on Thursday, but his round was overshadowed by a disastrous debut for his 17-year-old son Stefan, who finished an embarrassing 28 over par.

"I was afraid it might happen," said the 50-year-old Langer, a former double Masters champion after his round of 67 compared dramatically to his son's 98.

"I knew he was not playing well the last few weeks or months even. He is trying to make some changes but if you hit it sideways here, you're going to lose some balls," the elder Langer said.

Stefan Langer, making his European Tour debut on a sponsor's invite, covered the back nine in 45 and the front nine in 53, including a 12 at the par-five second.

Japan's Taichi Teshima and France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet share the first round lead after firing 64 to be at six-under par with Scotland's Andrew Coltart in a pack a shot further back after equalling the lowest nine holes in European Tour history.

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