Originally created 10/26/01

Ogilvy surprises himself with opening-round 64



PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- Geoff Ogilvy wasn't expecting much in the Buick Challenge.

"I just wanted to put in four rounds and go home with some spending money for Christmas," the Australian said.

Ogilvy will have to set his sights much higher after opening with a career-best 64 Thursday, tying Vijay Singh for the lead at Callaway Gardens.

Five players were one shot back in the final chance to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.

Ogilvy is too far back to make that elite field. He ranks 92nd on the money list - the top 30 get in - and came to the rolling hills of west Georgia just playing out a difficult rookie season on the PGA Tour.

"I'm not going to lie," the 24-year-old Ogilvy said. "I have been very ready to get back to Australia. I have been counting down the last few weeks."

Singh has been counting the weeks, too, but only because he knows there are only two chances left to avoid his first winless PGA Tour season since 1996.

"I've not led a golf tournament in so long, I don't know what it feels like," said Singh, who has played well enough to rank as the fourth-leading money winner. "I'd really like to win. I'm going to give it a good shot."

Singh knocked in a 20-foot birdie from the fringe of the green at No. 14, then finished up with a brilliant wedge on 18, leaving a 4-foot putt that tied Ogilvy for the lead.

Ogilvy hardly resembled the player who has made the cut just seven times in 22 events. His day started with a miserable session on the driving range - "I was actually hitting the ball the worst I have all year," he said - but he turned things around quickly with birdies on the first two holes of the 7,057-yard Mountain View course.

"I stopped hitting balls on the range because I was hitting it so bad," he said. "It was probably a blessing. I just thought to myself, 'Let's stop thinking about everything.' I was thinking about 50 different things on the range."

Considering he had missed the cut in seven of his last eight events and finished 74th in the other, that's not surprising.

Then, Ogilvy rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the first hole. "That sort of made me feel like it was not a complete lost cause," he said.

Joel Edwards, part of the five-man pack at 65, is among those playing the money game. He's about $500,000 behind 30th-place Kenny Perry and needs a victory to have a chance to qualify for the prestigious event at Champions Golf Club in Houston.

The $3.4 million Buick purse includes $612,000 for the winner.

At least Edwards knows how to win now. The 39-year-old Texan played 315 tournaments before his victory at the Air Canada Championship in outside Vancouver 2 1/2 months ago - the longest dry spell for an inaugural winner in tour history.

"I know how fickle this game can be," Edwards said. "The win has helped me confidence-wise, but I also know it is a gift. It's very difficult to win. I have proven that."

Edwards was tied with Neal Lancaster, Mike Sposa, Per-Ulrik Johansson and Danny Ellis.

The tournament, which is popular with players for its rural, family-friendly setting, attracted an especially strong field even without Tiger Woods. Nineteen of the top 30 money-winners were on hand, including defending champion David Duval, who shot a 67.

Davis Love III opened with a 68, Sergio Garcia was at 70 and Ernie Els struggled to a 73.

Despite windy conditions in the morning and thick rough, much of the 132-player field overpowered the course on a sunny, warm day.

Ninety players broke par, including 45 rounds in the 60s. That could change heading into the weekend, when a cold front is expected to leave temperatures no higher than the 50s.

"I'm surprised at how many low scores there were," said Singh, who teed off in the afternoon. "The wind kind of died at the end of my round. You couldn't ask for better weather."

While Singh has safely qualified for the Tour Championship, plenty of other guys are playing the money game.

Jose Coceres, coming off a victory at Disney World that bumped him to 33rd, is making a push to crack the elite field. Only about $60,000 behind Perry, he opened with a 66.

Then there's Charles Howell, trying to become the first non-member of the tour to qualify for the Tour Championship. Having already earned more than $1.4 million playing by invitation only, he must close a $124,729 gap on Perry.

"I thought about it a little bit here and there," said Howell, who was in contention with a 68. "I need to be in the top five. The best thing for me would be bad weather. I played in a lot of that in college. If I get to the Tour Championship, that would be a nice bonus."

Jesper Parnevik, 31st in the money standings and only $676 behind Perry, didn't help his chances with a 73. Perry shot 71.

Divots: PGA Championship winner David Toms withdrew after shooting 72, citing a sore neck and wrist. ... U.S. Open runner-up Mark Brooks also dropped out because of an unspecified injury. ... Steve Stricker (No. 28 in the money standings) is the only player between the 25th and 50th spots who didn't enter this week. He rarely plays after the first week of September.