Originally created 06/30/00

Four golfers shoot 64 on opening day

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Four days after getting his third PGA Tour victory, Notah Begay had some butterflies as he pursued a second straight tournament win.

He bogeyed his first hole at the Greater Hartford Open on Thursday but ended with four consecutive birdies for a 6-under-par 64 that had him tied for the first-round lead with Robert Gamez, Dan Forsman and Kirk Triplett.

"I was a bit nervous on the tee this morning, just having won. I didn't want to put a lot of pressure on myself. And I came out and hit some pretty bad shots," said Begay, who won the St. Jude Classic on Sunday.

Begay's opening drive sailed left into a stand of trees, and his approach shot almost hit a fan.

But his birdie putts brought him back.

"The greens are so perfect right now that if you get a good read, you've just got to get it going. It's going to go in," Begay said.

The scores reflected it as 83 golfers in the 156-player field finished under par.

Gamez, who had been struggling with his putting, got everything going in the right direction Thursday.

"I worked on my lefthand grip, but the problem was I wasn't working on my righthand grip to complement it. My forearms weren't lined up, so they were working against each other," he said.

He and Tom Sones, his short-game coach, tinkered with his grip Sunday after he missed the cut in Memphis.

"It's a little awkward, but it's getting my arms to work together. The speed on my ball is a lot better," said Gamez, winless on tour since 1990.

He made seven birdie putts Thursday, including several 15-footers and an uphill 25-footer on No. 5, a par-3.

Triplett needed to get his feet dirty to secure a share of the lead. When his approach shot to the par-5 13th plugged in a greenside hazard. He took off his shoes and socks, donned rain gear and took a full swing with his wedge.

"And out she comes, 15 feet right of the hole," he said.

He rolled in a 4-foot putt for birdie and "turned a 6 into a 4 pretty quick."

Triplett toiled for 11 years and 266 tournaments on tour before getting his first win in February at the Nissan Open in Los Angeles.

"I probably wouldn't have said it would make that much difference before I won. But I look at the picture of me ... thrusting my fist up there in the air, and I see a lot of emotion there that I didn't realize was there," he said.

Triplett has found the 6,820-yard Tournament Players Club at River Highlands to his liking. He missed the cut just once in 10 tries and finished second in 1995 to Greg Norman.

Forsman made the shot of the day on the par-4 18th to save par and join the leaders. His third shot landed in the rough behind the green, about 40 feet uphill from the pin.

Winless after 18 years on tour, Forsman found himself in a familiar and frustrating position.

"At that point, I'm starting to say, `Why can't I just get it in. What's the matter here? Why is it one hole, one shot, one series of shot seem to be holding me back?"'

Turned out, it didn't.

His chip caught the fringe, trickled onto the green and didn't stop rolling until it hit the pin and dropped in.

"God, I don't know what I felt. It was so amazing to have it be over and have a 4 and 64, 6 under and tied for the lead," he said. "It was a thrill."

Nine golfers were tied at 65 -- Mark Brooks, Doug Barron, J.L. Lewis, Bobby Cochran, Steve Lowery, Jason Caron, Mark Calcavecchia, Brad Faxon and Bart Bryant.

Hal Sutton and Davis Love III had 67s. Defending champ Brent Geiberger bogeyed his last two holes and was also at 67.


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