Levi's game as good as weather: 64

Equaling tourney record, he takes one-shot lead in Champions Tour event

Golf

October 02, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Wayne Levi equaled both the Hayfields Country Club and tournament record by carding an 8-under-par 64 yesterday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Constellation Energy Classic.

In ideal weather on a course softened recently by the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne, Levi recorded eight birdies and just missed a record-breaking effort when his 12-foot putt on the 18th strayed to the right. The round matched his previous low on the Champions Tour, in the 2003 Columbus Southern Open.

On his heels was Australian Rodger Davis, who matched his best showing of the season with a 65 although troubled by back pain. Two shots back in third were Joe Inman and Argentinian Eduardo Romero, who had an eagle and a birdie over the final three holes.

"I've been playing fairly well the last few weeks; I just haven't been scoring. Today everything fell together," said Levi, who finished tied for eighth at the previous week's tournament, the SAS Championship. "I hit some crisp iron shots."

A 64 was first posted at Hayfields by J.C. Snead, the eventual tourney winner, in 2002. Jose Maria Canizares tamed Hobbit's Glen with the same score in 2000 when the event was called the State Farm Senior Classic.

"This felt like the old days when I was on the regular [PGA] tour," said Levi, of New Hartford, N.Y. "I used to shoot a lot of these then."

One of the more consistent Champions players, Levi entered as No. 16 on the money-winning list and in the top 10 in driving accuracy and reaching greens in regulation.

Solid placements with his short irons and wedges, including an excellent recovery from a bunker at the 16th hole, were the key to the round, leaving Levi with very makeable putts on the birdie holes. The longest putt he holed for a bird was from 15 feet on No. 5.

"I'm surprised the course was in such good shape after all the rain," he said. "It was in beautiful condition, and I had a fair amount of good lies. I like this course. Some, you play pretty well and you usually score well. This is one of them for me. I seem to play a little better on bentgrass."

Davis finished in a rush with five birdies on the backside, four on the last six holes - probably because he was feeling much better after the morning chill vanished.

"I've had back trouble all year," said Davis, who three-putted at the fourth hole for his only bogey. "I wasn't going to play Wednesday in the pro-am, but I took Sammy Rachels' spot and back spasms started to bother me.

"I played the first five holes [yesterday] in a sweater and then the sun came out and they [the spasms] went away. It's hard to swing with back spasms. I've pulled out of three tournaments this year. At one, they took me out by ambulance."

Davis said the ball wasn't getting much roll yesterday because of the cushy ground, "but, surprisingly, it didn't pick up much, mud either." His previous 65 was on a par-70 course in April, so this was his top round of the season.

The early lead belonged to Inman, who played in the threesome just ahead of Davis.

"I played beautifully [missing only one green - barely]," said Inman. "I just thought it was hard to get it close to the hole because the greens are so soft. I'll take 5 under."

Defending champion Larry Nelson and former major leaguer Rick Rhoden opened with 2-over-par 74s while Mike McNulty was in a crowd at 68 in his first start since the first week of August, also because of back problems.

NOTES: Tournament officials announced that the second round will be conducted with two-tee starts from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. They hope to have play concluded by mid-afternoon. ... Dave Eichelberger recorded the tournament's first hole-in-one at Hayfields on the par-3, 169-yard 11th hole. He used a 7-iron to make the second ace in tourney history. The other was by Hubert Green at Hobbit's Glen in 2000.

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