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Newz Forum: GOLF: Davis leads Nissan

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posted on Feb, 18 2005 @ 01:13 PM
LOS ANGELES -- The shifting wind and gloomy rain gave the Nissan Open a distinctively British feel Thursday.

So did the leaderboard.

Two months after finally earning his PGA Tour card by winning Q-school, Brian Davis of England opened with an eagle and finished with eight straight pars on his way to a 6-under 65 for the early lead at dreary Riviera Country Club.

Luke Donald of England and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland were among those one shot behind.

Donald was tied for the lead until landing in a divot just short of a fairway bunker, going into a greenside bunker and making bogey on his last hole. Clarke had one of many highlights at Riviera with his 7-iron that skirted the edge of the bunker in the middle of the par-3 sixth green and then rolled down the slope and into the cup for an ace.

Brett Quigley made a birdie on the 18th and also shot a 66.

Two-time defending champion Mike Weir was at 5-under until finding a bunker on his final hole and making bogey, dropping him into a large group at 67. Still, it was a solid start in his bid to become the first player to win the Nissan Open three straight years.

Tiger Woods should have no complaints, either.

Despite three-putting for bogey three times, Woods managed a 67 for his best start ever in his hometown tournament, which has given him fits like no other. The Nissan Open is the only PGA Tour event he has played at least four times without winning.

Woods needs to finish no worse than fourth to return to No. 1 in the world.

He wasn't all that impressed with his start.

"I putted like a fool today," Woods said. "It was an absolutely horrific day on the greens. I probably could have shot an 8-under par with not too much effort."

The first round was suspended by darkness with four players still on the course.

The effort was figuring out the weather. The wind changed direction when the morning starters were about halfway through their rounds and then gave way to a cool, steady rain the rest of the afternoon.

"We played the front nine into the wind, so we thought, 'That's handy; we would make the turn and play it downwind.' And the wind switched and came straight back at us," Davis said. "It's a lot like playing links golf back home."

It hardly mattered to Davis.

He hit 4-iron into four feet on the par-5 opening hole for eagle, picked up short birdies on the sixth and seventh and then hit a 4-iron into the uphill ninth to about three feet to make the burn in 30. Equally important to Davis was a 12-foot par save on the 15th, even though his round was almost over.

"I've played a lot of links golf, and if you drop a shot, you start fighting it," Davis said.

Donald only had to battle the rain, starting in the afternoon when Riviera played a little longer. He quickly made up ground with a pair of 30-foot birdie putts at Nos. 4 and 5, followed by a tee shot into 16 inches on the par-3 sixth.

"It was a little tough with the rain," Donald said. "I'm glad I was one of the early ones in the afternoon."

Clarke had the only ace of the day, producing a cheer that could be heard from all corners of Riviera.

The only louder noise came from the ninth, where John Daly finished his round of 69 with an approach that landed some 20 feet behind the hole, spun down the slope and caught the right edge of the cup for an eagle. Later in the afternoon, Chris Riley holed out from 180 yards on No. 8 and finished with a 71.

Typical for Riviera, the classic course off Sunset Boulevard that puts a premium on shotmaking, no one was able to separate himself from the pack.

Adam Scott, Kevin Sutherland and Jose Coceres joined Woods at 67, while the large group at 68 included Jerry Kelly and Steve Elkington, who won the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera in a playoff over Colin Montgomerie.

Woods has been trying to win at Riviera since he first played here as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992. Coming off a victory three weeks ago at Torrey Pines, it doesn't look like his winter break brought much rust.

Woods opened with a beautiful flop shot to five feet and a two-putt birdie from 15 feet. His round was otherwise solid, except for the three-putts -- one of them went six feet long at No. 13, another was four feet short on No. 5. The third was from 75 feet just off the green at No. 4, ending on the fringe on the other side about 15 feet away.

He got the best end of the draw, before the wind picked up and the rain arrived.

"I just wish I could have capitalized a little more on that," he said.



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