David Toms overcame a sore back and some recent poor form with a 5-under 67 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Wachovia Championship.
It was Toms’ best round since before he can remember.
“Since a long time. I don’t know. I can’t even think,” Toms said. “It makes me feel good about my game. It gives me a little bit of confidence. It wasn’t a fluke round.”
Playing in the morning when the greens were still soft from the drenching rain earlier in the week, Toms made eight birdies, including a near ace at the 13th hole, to take a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson and Jason Bohn.
It was a welcome change for the 2001 US PGA Championship winner, whose last victory was more than two years ago. Swinging too hard two months ago at the Match Play Championship caused a disk problem to flare up. He followed that withdrawal with two missed cuts while on pain medication, shot an 80 in the final round of the Masters, and tied for 61st at the Verizon Heritage.
“I’ve been out here long enough that the only time it’s really fun for me is when I have a chance to win and contend in tournaments,” said Toms, a 12-time tour winner. “Grinding to make the cut is too much like work. Playing well, I obviously enjoy that a lot more.”
Mickelson shot 68, hitting 12 of 14 fairways and had only 26 putts.
“I haven’t had as much soreness after the round in my back,” Mickelson said. “I haven’t had any back problems, but just muscular, sore. I think not having to bend over as much might allow me to practice a little bit easier.”
Bohn, like Toms and Mickelson, had an early tee time. He made six birdies in a satisfying round as he works his way back from stress fractures in his ribs suffered last year at the Memorial.
Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis led a group of nine two shots back, while Vijay Singh and Rory Sabbatini were among 11 three off the lead at 70. No one was able to make a charge late in the day on Toms as the course dried out and the greens quickened.
It was another rough day for Masters champion Trevor Immelman.
After missing the cut last week at the Byron Nelson Championship, Immelman shot 76 and was buried at the bottom of the leader board.
■PARK SEIZES LEAD
AFP, TULSA, Oklahoma
South Korea’s Park Hee-young seized the first-round lead at the LPGA SemGroup Championship on Thursday as world No.1 Lorena Ochoa was blown off course by difficult windy conditions.
Only four players managed sub-par rounds, and Ochoa was not one of them. Park managed a two-under-par 69 for a one-shot lead over defending champion Kim Mi-hyun, Oh Ji-young and Paul Creamer, who all notched 70s.
Kim started defense of her title with a pair of bogeys on her front nine but had three birdies coming in.
“This course is tough, especially with the wind today,” Kim said. “I just need to be a little bit smart. You know, some holes I need to realize a par is OK.”
Having won her last four events, Ochoa returned to action this week after a week of rest at home in Mexico.
Ochoa had been firing on all cylinders coming into this event. Of the first 23 rounds she has played this year, 19 of them were in the 60s.
She couldn’t add to that total on Thursday but was still close enough to the leaders after a two-over 73 that included an eagle, a birdie and five bogeys.
Park opened with back-to-back birdies at one and two and added another at the seventh. She gave a shot back with a bogey at 16.