January 17, 2008

Purtzer Leads Champions Opener

A perfect 18 for 18 greens in regulation put Purtzer in position to fire his 10-under 62 and take the lead in Hawaii. Jim Thorpe and Allen Doyle are one back with D.A. Weibring two behind

Averaging more than 300 yards off the tee and nearly perfect iron play let Purtzer cruise to the lead Friday.

Averaging more than 300 yards off the tee and nearly perfect iron play let Purtzer cruise to the lead Friday.

KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii (AP) -- D.A. Weibring shot an 8-under 64 on Friday to take the early lead in the opening round of the MasterCard Championship.

Tom Purtzer eagled No. 7 and was at 9 under through 13 holes with more than half of the field still on the course in the Champions Tour's season-opening event.

Weibring holed a sand wedge from 91 yards for eagle on the par-4 sixth hole, and followed with four birdies on the next five holes. He made an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to take a one-stroke lead over John Harris and Mark McNulty.

Jay Haas, seeking an unprecedented third straight player of the year award, was at 7 under through 15.

The 54-year-old Weibring is seeking his fifth Champions Tour title. Last year, he won the 3M Championship and finished a career-best fifth on the money list, nearly doubling his 2006 earnings.

He was using a brand new driver after finding a crack in the one he had used for four years.

The players tore through the oceanside layout in calm conditions and slightly overcast skies that hid the peak of Mount Hualalai and provided a relief from the sun.

Jerry Pate, Bob Gilder and John Jacobs shot 66s. Pate struggled early and made the turn at 37 but carded a 29 on the back side.

Defending champion Hale Irwin was even through 11. The 62-year-old star, who withdrew from Thursday's pro-am for personal reasons, is looking to continue his magic in the Aloha State, where he has nine official victories.

Last year, Irwin won the winners-only tournament, beating Jim Thorpe and Tom Kite by five strokes for his tour-record 45th victory and first in 15 months. Irwin closed with a 7-under 65 for a 23-under 193 total.

Mark James and Andy Bean were the only eligible player not entered. Bean has an injured back and James has opted to stay in Europe until early February.