O'Meara Starts Strong

August 27, 2009

Mark O'Meara hasn't won in the U.S. since the 1998 Masters.

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) -- It's the only accolade missing from Mark O'Meara's golf resume: a win on the Champions Tour.

He's a third of the way to filling that void.

O'Meara eagled the 18th hole on Friday to finish a round of 6-under 66 and take a two-shot lead over a jumbled field after the first round of the Boeing Classic.

It's been 11 years since O'Meara hosted a trophy in a PGA event, when he won both the Masters and British Open in 1998 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world. But it's been an official victory drought for O'Meara since - he won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2004 and a handful of specialty events since he hoisted the claret jug at Royal Birkdale 11 years ago.

"Absolutely, it would be nice to win. Besides winning at Dubai the last thing I won was the par-3 competition at Augusta National two years ago," O'Meara joked. "It would be nice to get my first win and hopefully soon."

O'Meara was 5 under after making birdie on No. 12, but fell back into the pack after a bogey on 16. On the uphill, 498-yard par-5 finishing hole - that ranked the easiest hole in last year's tournament -- O'Meara knocked a 3-iron from about 205 yards to 17 feet. He then curled in the eagle putt, one of only two golfers on Friday to eagle the closing hole.

It was O'Meara's best opening round of the year and the second time he's led after the first round of a Champions Tour event. But leading after the first round at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, the picturesque foothills course about 30 miles east of Seattle has not been a good thing in the first four years of the tournament. No first-round leader has gone on to win.

"Today the difference was I putted well. Last week I hit the ball well ... and didn't putt very well," O'Meara said. "This week, so far I've putted a lot better and hit some really good shots."

Australian Mark McNulty had the best round of the day going, shooting a sizzling 6-under 30 on his first nine holes - the back nine at Snoqualmie Ridge. But with the big names of O'Meara, Nick Price, Gary Player and defending champion Tom Kite sent off on the front side, very little attention was paid to McNulty. He made the turn and played his 10th hole with a gallery of just seven people watching.

But McNulty couldn't keep the rhythm from his hot start going. He scrambled for pars on the first three holes of his backside, then bogeyed his 13th hole. He bogeyed his last - the par-3 ninth - when his tee shot on the 207-yard hole with water fronting the green found one of the greenside bunkers.

"You shoot 6 under the first nine and come back 2 over it's always disappointing," McNulty said.

Joining McNulty at 4 under were Allen Doyle, Loren Roberts and John Jacobs, who has played in just one tournament in the last two months. Jacobs, who limits himself to 11 tournaments a year, eagled No. 8, his 17th, to jump into contention.

The oldest winner on the Champions Tour was Mike Fetchick, who won the Hilton Head Seniors Invitational on his 63rd birthday in 1985. Jacobs wouldn't mind supplanting him.

"I've thought about that," the 64-year-old said. "It might not happen this week, but I tell you what, if I behave myself it will happen."

Fifteen players were within three shots of O'Meara, including Kite, the two-time champion, John Cook and Bernhard Langer. It's been a busy week for Kite, who played in last week's Tradition in Sunriver, Ore., then jetted to the East Coast to promote Liberty National, the course he helped design and is being used this week for The Barclays.

Then it was back to Seattle, where Kite birdied three straight on the back nine before pulling his second shot into a bunker on 18 and making bogey. Thirty-two golfers broke par Friday, including Hale Irwin (70), Craig Stadler (70), Fuzzy Zoeller (71) and Hal Sutton (71).