SEVILLE, Spain — Former PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel is hoping a new putter will help end a nine-year winless drought after 5-under-par 67 on Thursday at the 100th Spanish Open.
Micheel, ranked 608th, led by one stroke after eight birdies and three bogeys, including one on the last hole of the Real de Golf de Sevilla course.
“I didn’t expect this,” said Micheel. “Yesterday in the the pro-am I didn’t make any birdies, and it wasn’t for lack of effort, I can assure you. … My iron play was good and I just managed myself well and gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Jorge Capillo and Robert Rock and Danny Willett were tied with 68s.
The Memphis-based Micheel is competing on the European Tour under a 10-year exemption after winning the 2003 PGA Championship, his last victory.
He’s balancing invitations on the U.S. PGA Tour in an effort to regain full membership after forfeiting full playing rights at the end of last year.
Big-hitting Alvaro Quiros, winner on the course two years ago, shot 73 and Miguel Angel Jiménez, yet to win his national title, had 75. Former Augusta State golfer Scott Jamieson opened with 78.
NATIONWIDE TOUR: In Athens, Ga., Kent Jones shot 8-under-par 63 to take a two-shot lead at the Stadion Classic at UGA.
Lee Janzen, David Skinns and Brandon Brown had 65s and are tied for second at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
Former Georgia standout Hudson Swafford shot 66 and is three shots off the pace.
Aiken’s Matt Hendrix posted 68 and is tied for 18th. Augusta’s Scott Parel shot 73 and is tied for 114th.
WATSON WITHDRAWS: Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson has decided to skip The Players Championship to spend time with his family.
Watson and his wife, Angie, adopted a month-old boy two weeks before Watson won the Masters. He said on Twitter that it’s all about bonding with his son, and The Players Championship will be just fine without him.