Originally created 04/02/04

Two lead blustery BellSouth



DULUTH, Ga. - Roger Tambellini shouldn't struggle to attract attention on the PGA Tour.

The rookie is young, tall and possesses a self-deprecating sense of humor. He waves at fans along the fairways and signs every autograph. His trouble is in his timing.

Every time he does the remarkable on the golf course, he's overshadowed by something or somebody else.

He shot 60 to win a 1999 Hooters Tour event, and the focus is on the ease of the golf course. He wins a 2003 Nationwide Tour tournament by six shots, the largest winning margin of the season, and the story is teenage female phenom Michelle Wie, who made her debut in a U.S. men's professional tournament at the event.

He shoots a third-round 70 on his way to his best PGA Tour finish earlier this year, and every question he hears for a week is about his playing partner, Tiger Woods, who shot 72 that Saturday.

So it didn't surprise Tambellini that frigid weather and the play of a perennial Masters Tournament contender were the stories of Thursday's opening round at the BellSouth Classic and not his 7-under-par 65.

"Rounds like this on days like this, they pick you, you don't pick them," said Tambellini, who is tied for the lead with two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal heading into today's second round. "It's not something I would have ever dreamed of doing, waking up this morning freezing to the bone."

Temperatures in the 30s and winds so strong players accounted for them while putting marked the first day of the PGA Tour event at the Tournament Players Club at Sugarloaf.

Playing Sugarloaf's back nine first, Tambellini bogeyed No. 12 before making birdie on Nos. 14, 17 and 18. He took control of the tournament with an eagle at No. 6.. He chipped in from a deep green-side bunker on the 569-yard, par-5 hole.

"It was kind of a shock; I couldn't see the hole and I could only see part of the pin," Tambellini said. "I heard it hit the pin and the people cheering and figured it went in."

Tambellini went on to make two birdies in his final three holes to put him two shots in front of early leader Tim Petrovic. Craig Bowden is alone in third place, one shot behind the leaders, followed by Petrovic and defending PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel in a tie for fourth.

Olazabal and Bowden benefited from somewhat gentler conditions in the afternoon to join Tambellini atop the leader board.

Olazabal played a bogey-free round, making the most of solid iron play. Defending champ Ben Crane is three shots back after a 4-under 68.

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424

or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.