Originally created 03/15/03

Morgan avoids wind and leads SBC Classic



SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Early starter Gil Morgan avoided the afternoon wind that kept scores high and shot a 7-under-par 65 to take the first-round lead Friday in the SBC Classic.

"I think the early starters had an advantage," Morgan said. "With the wind picking up in the afternoon, and the forecast for rain over the weekend, it was important to get off to a fast start."

Morgan had the fastest start of the day. He eagled the first hole and birdied the third at Valencia Country Club.

"When I eagled that first hole, it gave me back-to-back eagles on this course, if you go back to last year," Morgan said.

In 2002, he nearly holed out for what would have been a double eagle, then settled for an eagle on the 18th and missed getting into a playoff by one stroke.

Morgan birdied the ninth hole Friday to make the turn in 33, then made four birdies on the back nine.

"It was really a round that could have been lower," Morgan said. "I missed a short birdie putt at the seventh hole, missed at least three chances from 10 to 15 feet on the back nine, and three-putted for par on a par-five."

John Schroeder, who almost pulled out of the tournament because he felt sick in the morning, one-putted his last six holes to finish a stroke back.

"I didn't know if I was going to play, but decided I was feeling well enough to go on the driving range," Schroeder said.

Tom Purtzer, who finished in a tie with Morgan for third last year, opened with a 67 and is tied for third with James Mason.

The only other players in the field of 81 to break 70 were Sammy Rachels and Allen Doyle with 69s.

Defending champion Tom Kite was among those struggling in the wind. He shot a 74.

Other notable players over par included three-time tour player of the year Hale Irwin, who shot a 73.

Larry Nelson had a 75 and Fuzzy Zoeller a 76.

Purtzer, the first-round leader last year, made his move with a birdie on the 15th and a hole-in-one at the 16th. He used a 6-iron to ace the 194-yard hole.

"I don't normally hit a 6-iron that far," Purtzer said. "The wind had just come up and I think it was helping me about a half a club. It was just enough."

Purtzer felt good about his position again because he likes the layout at Valencia.

"This is a great course for second shots," he said. "I really felt good about my game coming in.

"I didn't play last week because I wanted to come in here fresh and rested."