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Price Plays Mistake Free

October 29, 2008

With rain putting a premium on accuracy, Price made 17 greens in regulation.

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) -- Nick Price made a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole to pull even with David Eger at 6-under 66 atop the leaderboard Thursday in the opening round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Battling intermittent rains that are expected to get a whole lot worse on the weekend, Price and Eger took a one-stroke lead over Mike Goodes in the Champions Tour's season-ending event. Tom Kite, who played a bogey-free round along with Price, and Andy Bean are two shots back in the $2.5 million tournament, which also decides the tour's season-long Schwab Cup points competition.

"Given the forecast, I guess this was the round to get your good score in," said Eger, who sneaked into the field of the tour's top 29 players after an inconsistent season.

Price also is out of contention for the Schwab Cup and its $1 million annuity after playing just a part-time Champions Tour schedule, but the two-time PGA Championship winner enjoyed his first chance to play the rolling course at Sonoma Golf Club in the heart of Northern California's wine country.

Price, who has won more than $1 million in 17 events this season, hit a 41-footer for birdie on the 16th before ending his round with another long putt.

"I had good control with my irons, my distance and my accuracy," said Price, who has never won in his previous 32 Champions Tour events. "That's really what set up my round. I missed some very makable putts ... but all in all, it always balances out. Those two bombs I made, sometimes that happens. I didn't play 16 at all well, and walked off there with a birdie. I felt like I'd stolen something."

Jay Haas, who leads Fred Funk by a slim 12-point margin in the Schwab Cup competition, got off to a solid start with a 3-under 69. He was five strokes better than Funk, whose 74 was the first round's worst score.

Bernhard Langer, the Champions Tour's money leader by less than $50,000 over Haas, shot a 71. Langer is third in the Schwab Cup standings, while Eduardo Romero and John Cook also have mathematical chances to win it.

The tournament could signal a change in the hierarchy of the Champions Tour, with several longtime standouts failing to qualify for the Schwab Cup Championship. Hale Irwin, Gil Morgan, Dana Quigley and Jim Thorpe — who won the past two Sonoma tournaments — all missed the field, while 10 first-timers made it to Sonoma.

"I guess that's something that happens every year here, but you don't want it to be your year that you don't play," Eger said. "I've had a year where I haven't played, and it was pretty dismal that winter. This is a very nice way to end the year."