TUCSON, Ariz.-- If history has any bearing, this could be a
really big weekend for Mark Wilson.
The Wisconsin native shot an opening-round 64 to take the lead
Thursday at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, two shots ahead of Doug
Barron, Gabriel Hjertstedt, Jerry Kelly, John Riegger and Duffy
Wilson's 8-under was anchored by a 30 on the front nine. He
started the tournament on the 10th tee, made the turn at 2-under
and got rolling with an eagle on No. 2, a tricky par-5 with a
narrow fairway and an undulating green.
Wilson drained a 28-foot putt and then logged birdies on the
third, fourth, seventh and ninth holes at par-72 Tucson National. A
bogey at No. 18 was the only blemish on what he called one of the
best rounds of his career.
"All of a sudden, it went in from everywhere," Wilson said.
"It was a tale of two nines. If I could have rolled in some birdie
putts early and not made a silly bogey at 18, this could have been
something real special. But I'm still happy with what it is."
The Chrysler Classic has had a first-time champion 14 times,
including five of the last six years. Wilson would be a perfect
candidate to extend the streak.
He spent five years on the mini-tours and twice survived
qualifying school. With his conditional status, he knows which
tournaments will accept him and often works the Monday qualifying
"Two weeks before, 15 guys will commit and I'm out," Wilson
said. "But if I can keep shooting 64 here, things will change
Wilson credited a coaching change last July for a late-season
surge and his fast start in Tucson. He led the Texas Open late in
the third round last September before finishing tied for third, one
of his three Top 10 finishes that month.
Another key, Wilson said, was conquering what he calls "the ego
thing." He stands 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, but Wilson often is
tempted to pull out a 3-wood when a second shot must travel 250
yards and carry a water hazard.
"The smart thing is to chip a 7-iron down there and leave it to
good wedge yardage," he said. "The ego gets in the way. I want to
join those long hitters, but I think I've matured to where most of
the time I make the right decision."
Hjertstedt was one of Tucson's first-time champions, winning in
1999 during his up-and-down career. His bogey-free 66 was a thrill,
he said, after his struggles on the Nationwide Tour the past three
years, including only one Top 10 finish last season.
"It's difficult," said Hjertstedt, born in Sweden and raised
in Australia. "You're up there on the PGA Tour and then you get
back on the Nationwide where you haven't played. It certainly
humbles you quite a bit."
Starting from the 10th tee, Hjertstedt birdied the par-3 12th by
hitting a 7-iron to seven feet. Then he recovered from a bad drive
on No. 16 by slicing another 7-iron shot to eight feet to reach
2-under at the turn.
He missed an eagle opportunity with a two-putt on the second
from 10 feet. But he placed an 8-iron three inches from the pin on
No. 4, drained a 20-foot putt on No. 5 and hit a lob wedge within
six feet on No. 8.
"I just played a smart round of golf," he said. "I didn't go
for too much. I made a few putts here and there. I'm still
struggling a little bit with my swing, but I can do it on the range
and today I felt pretty solid on the course."
Barron's 31 was the low score on the back nine. ... Scott
Gutschewski eagled Nos. 2 and 8 and was among 11 players tied at
5-under. ... Willie Wood waded into the pond along No. 18 after an
errant tee shot. He bogeyed the hole and was 1-under after birdies
on Nos. 13, 14 and 15. ... The par-4 ninth was statistically the
toughest hole, yielding 16 birdies, 26 bogeys and three