Originally created 05/15/98

Friend's 63 takes lead at Byron Nelson



IRVING, Texas -- Bob Friend, who needed a 63 in the final round of Qualifying School to earn his PGA Tour card for this year by a single stroke, shot another 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic.

Playing the more difficult TPC course at the Four Seasons Club and Resort, Friend made seven birdies to take a one-stroke lead over Tom Watson and Harrison Frazar.

Tiger Woods, who is trying to win for the second consecutive week, was two strokes back at 65, along with Blaine McCallister, Frank Lickliter, Scott Gump and Ben Bates. Woods and Watson played the easier Cottonwood Valley course.

Playing before a smaller gallery, fewer media and much lighter security than last year when the Byron Nelson was his first tournament after winning the Masters, Woods could have been a lot lower except for a balky putter.

"I left a lot of shots out there today," Woods, who is the defending champion, said after missing four birdie putts inside 10 feet. "It could have been a low one today."

Woods' round included an eagle on No. 11 when he hit a 4-iron from 227 yards to 15 feet and rolled in the putt. His only bogey came on No. 6 when he buried a wedge from 123 yards in the back bunker and couldn't get up-and-down to save par, missing from 20 feet.

Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Jim Furyk were in a large knot of players at 4-under-par 66.

Friend, the 34-year-old son of former league pitcher Bob Friend, quit trying to make it as a competitive player in 1996 and taught golf for a season. But a seventh at the Honda Classic in March and his round on Thursday make it look like he just might be a late bloomer.

"I needed a 63 to get my card by a shot," he said about Qualifying School in December. "And I got it with a bogey on the last hole."

Friend was just as hot on Thursday as he turned the front nine in 30 and was 7-under par after 13 holes.

"The putter was somewhat warm today," Friend said. "I never came close to making a bogey."

Five of his seven birdies came on putts of 8 feet or less.

"And on 16, 17 and 18, I was inside 15 feet on all three birdie putts, but they were all big-time swingers," he said.

Watson, who at 48 seems to have rediscovered the putting stroke that deserted him nearly a decade ago, had seven birdies, a bogey and two good up-and-down par saves.

"My round was characterized by great putting," Watson said. "I missed one makeable putt."

That miss came from 6 feet on No. 15 hole as he made his only bogey of the day. None of his birdie putts were longer than 20 feet.

"I made a lot of 3, 4, 5 footers," Watson said.

That's what Watson was doing 20 years ago when he won this tournament four times in six years, including three straight in 1978-80.

Divots: Tony Navarro is carrying Jeff Sluman's bag while Greg Norman is out for the season following shoulder surgery. ... A smoky haze from brush fires in Central America hung over large parts of Texas, blocking out the sun. "It feels real ashy out there," Woods said. "It was like sandpaper in the air. The gallery was hacking it up." ... Friend's father pitched most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he was with the New York Mets in 1966 when he gave up Pete Rose's first major league hit -- a triple. ... Masters champion Mark O'Meara shot a 70.