GREENSBORO, N.C. - There was nothing in Charles Warren's recent performance to suggest this was coming.
He shot a 30 on the front nine and tied the course record with a 10-under 62 to take the first-round lead Thursday in the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, beating his previous best on the PGA Tour by four shots. Warren is two shots clear of K.J. Choi and three ahead of fellow Clemson alum D.J. Trahan.
"I've never had a round like that," said Warren, who has made only two cuts in his past 15 starts. "That's as close to a perfect round of golf as I've ever played."
Scoring in the afternoon improved greatly as Forest Oaks didn't quite dry out as expected, and the top seven enjoyed the easier conditions. John Rollins had the best round of the early starters - he was in the first group off No. 10 at 7:30 a.m. - and carded a 67 that left him tied for eighth.
Sergio Garcia had a 69, as did U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, and Adam Scott put himself in danger of missing the cut with a 73.
"If you're hitting it out there in the fairway, you've always got a chance to go at the flag for birdie," said Tim Clark, who opened with a 66. "The wind was playing a little bit, but I still felt the course was there for the taking."
That hasn't been the case anywhere lately for the 30-year-old Warren, who made about $67,000 in 1999 during his first full season on tour. He has one run of six missed cuts in a row and currently is riding a skid of five, even though he did play well enough in between to tie for seventh in the Western Open.
Warren birdied each of the par-5s during his bogey-free round. While tying the three other players who have posted 62s, he has the best opening score in the 66-year history of the tournament.
"Today was just one of those days where everything kind of went my way," Warren said.
One of the players chasing is Olin Browne. After beginning the year with conditional status, the 46-year-old Browne vaulted into the spotlight by staying in contention in the U.S. Open, then continuing the solid play throughout the summer.
It culminated with a victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, the third victory of his career. A second-place finish last week in the Texas Open vaulted him to No. 22 on the money list with $1.8 million, and it also gave him a spot next week in the $7.5 million American Express Championship.
On Thursday, Browne had a 68.
"You know, I'm just trying to have some fun with it, because for the last four years, it hasn't been a lot of fun," he said. "But it's becoming more fun. Playing well is really rewarding. It's gratifying."
If Warren and Trahan stay near the top of the leaderboard, they won't have a chance to watch their beloved Clemson Tigers play Saturday at Wake Forest, a short drive away in Winston-Salem. Trahan attended both of their most recent games, which turned out to overtime losses for Clemson.
Perhaps it's a good thing he won't be able to go this weekend.
"I was on suicide watch for a couple weeks there," Trahan said. "Couple of heartbreakers. I sat in the same seat both weeks. If I could burn that seat, I think I probably would after those two losses."
Warren wasn't quite so upset with his poor play. After what he called a "inconsistent" June and July, he started feeling better about his game in August, and the past three weeks have been even better. He got lessons from swing coach Todd Anderson and putting instructor Mike Taylor, and whatever they told him sure worked.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I could have shot 59, but I was every going to shoot 59, today would have been the chance, for sure," Warren said. "It was nice to get off to a good start."
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