CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Charles Howell III had seven birdies in a bogey-free round to take the early first-round lead Thursday in The International.
Howell, making a statement for the PGA Tour's young guns after season-long successes by the over-40 crowd, had 14 points under the modified Stableford scoring system used in this event at Castle Pines Golf Club. Each of Howell's birdies was worth 2 points.
"Last year everybody said it was the Young Tour," said Howell, 24. "I think we had 18 first-time winners. Now this year you're seeing the total opposite of that. I think it's good for the game. I think it shows you how hard a lot of people are working. They're not ready to give up."
Bob Tway and Jonathan Kaye each finished with 12 points. John Rollins had 11 and Chris Riley 10.
Masters champion Mike Weir and Steve Lowery, last year's runner-up here, were in a group at 9. Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco were at 8. Defending champion Rich Beem finished at 4.
Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and David Toms were among those with late tee times.
The scoring system gives players 8 points for a double eagle, 5 points for an eagle, 2 points for birdie, zero for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse. Beem won last year with a four-round total of 44 points, including 19 on Sunday.
The slight but long-hitting Howell, who has had three top-10 finishes this year and ranks 23rd on the money list, took advantage of optimum scoring conditions that resulted from his early-morning tee time. Wind and thunderstorms typically plague those with afternoon starts - and on Thursday, lightning forced a delay in play.
"Any time you go off early here, you need to make a bunch of birdies," he said.
Howell sank two 25-foot birdie putts, including one on his final hole, No. 9.
Scott Hoch, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Peter Jacobsen and Kenny Perry have already won this year in their 40s, and Craig Stadler won the B.C. Open three weeks ago at age 50. Nick Price, 46, and Jay Haas, 49, stand 10th and 11th, respectively, on this year's money list.
Tway, 44, also had a steady round Thursday with no bogeys and six birdies, including three in a row at Nos. 8 through 10. He owns seven Tour victories - four of them in 1986 including the PGA championship - but he hasn't won since 1995.
"I've had some chances," he said. "I still feel like I can win."
Age, he insisted, is not a deterrent.
"Peter Jacobsen and I were laughing last week, saying that the ball doesn't really know how old you are," Tway said. "If you can hit the shot, it doesn't make much difference. Experience and knowledge help, and most of us stay in pretty good shape."
Kaye, who grew up in Denver and attended the University of Colorado, said it was nice to play in front of friends.
He started fast, making eagle on the first hole. After a bogey at No. 2, he birdied two of the next three holes.
"I squandered a few points on the par-5s on the back," he said.
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