FORT WORTH, Texas -- All of that tinkering may be coming together for Bob Estes, who shot a 5-under-par 65 in windy conditions Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the Colonial.
Estes had a bogey-free round to match his best score of the year and finish two strokes ahead of a group of nine players. The former University of Texas player birdied the first two holes and also closed with two straight birdies.
"The winds were difficult, but I managed to combat the wind for the most part," Estes said. "A lot of good shots didn't turn out good, or some mishit ones turned out OK. It was difficult to pull the right club."
The breeze was blowing as usual over the historic 7,080-yard layout known as Hogan's Alley, but the 10-20 mph wind gusted throughout the day and swirled in different directions.
David Duval, Steve Jones and Steve Lowery were at 67, along with Esteban Toledo, Scott Verplank, Bob Tway, Brandt Jobe, Frank Lickliter and Joel Edwards.
Lowery was 4 under through 10 holes and then had seven straight pars. But his round-ending bogey at the 402-yard ninth hole, when his approach found a bunker behind the green, took away sole possession of second place as the last of the 67s to finish.
Only 34 of the 124 players were able to break par.
Sergio Garcia, playing as a defending champion on the PGA Tour for the first time, shot a 76. He began with an eagle on his second hole, the 609-yard No. 11, but had eight bogeys and no birdies after that in his worst round of the year.
"There's not much to talk about," said Garcia, who hit just nine of 18 greens in regulation. "What can you say about a 76? I got to playing bad, then got worse."
Ben Hogan, a five-time Colonial winner, is the only person to win the tournament in consecutive years, and he did it twice (1946-47 and 1952-53).
Even when Estes is playing well, such as when had two wins and four other top-10 finishes the last six tournaments a year ago to complete his best PGA season, he is constantly making changes to his clubs and his game.
"That was good, but I'm looking for great. I want to be prepared to play any course in any conditions, and be adaptable and be ready to change," Estes said. "I've spent 13 years in R&D (research and development). I'm planning on playing a whole lot better."
Estes, ninth on the money list last year but 44th this year, played much better Thursday. The straighter shot that has replaced his high fade was better adapted for the windy conditions, and his new putting style worked.
Three of his birdie putts were less than 5 feet, but Estes made a 25-footer on the 400-yard second hole and a 40-footer on the par 3 8th.
Estes changed his putting after finishing no better than 23rd, and being 44th or worse four times, in his last six tournaments.
"I've been hitting the ball real well for the most part, but not putting that good," he said. "So I figured I'd better try something new, so I revamped my putting ... got a new putter, a longer putter, standing taller and changed my grip."
He needed 27 putts in the first round.
Jones, the 1996 U.S. Open champion who has had rotator cuff problems since his last win at the 1998 Quad City Classic, was 5-under par through 11 holes but couldn't maintain the pace.
Jones had a bogey on his 13th hole, the 246-yard par-3 No. 4, and gave up another stroke two holes later when he missed a two-foot putt.
"The last year or so, it has felt a lot better and I'm able to practice more," Jones said. "It just takes time. It takes months and months and months, sometimes years, to get that stroke back. I feel like I'm starting to turn a corner a little bit."
In 12 tournaments this year, Jones has missed seven cuts, withdrawn once and finished no better than 35th.
Tom Watson, who skipped this week's Senior PGA Tour event, Corey Pavin and Carl Paulson were among 13 players at 2-under 68.
Duval and Paulson were both 4 under through their first 11 holes before getting to Colonial's famed "horrible horseshoe" - Nos. 3-5, where the fourth hole is sandwiched by the course's longest par 4s.
Duval had bogeys at Nos. 3-4, getting one of the strokes back with a birdie at No. 8. Paulson had a bogey at the long par 3, and then ended his round with another bogey.
Divots: Robert Damron and Fred Funk, both citing injury, withdrew after opening 77s. ... Shigeki Maruyama, the winner at the Byron Nelson Classic last week, had four consecutive birdies, on Nos. 9-12, but also had seven bogeys in a 72. Ben Hogan in 1946 is the only player to win the Colonial and the Dallas PGA Tour stop in the same year. ... Pavin, who got the last of his 14 PGA Tour wins in the 1996 Colonial, had a hole-in-one on the 178-yard 13th.
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