Doyle's 64 has him in front at Commerce Bank

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Allen Doyle had nine birdies -- six on
putts of less than 10 feet -- in a 7-under 64 on Friday that gave
him a one-stroke lead over Gil Morgan after the first round of the
Commerce Bank Championship.

Doyle was the oldest entrant in last week's U.S. Open and missed
the cut by a stroke. The 57-year-old started his round Friday with
one of his two bogeys, then started firing at the pins at the
7,011-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park.

He couldn't resist the opportunity for some word play when asked
to compare the Open, played last week at the treacherous Winged
Foot Golf Club, and this Champions Tour event on the county-owned
public facility.

"In a way, this was a walk in the park after Winged Foot," he

Tom Wargo, Jack Ferenz, Don Pooley and Jim Ahern all had opening
67s and were one stroke in front of a group of six that included
Bruce Fleisher, who won this tournament in 1999 and 2000.

Vying for his second straight tour win, Morgan matched Doyle's
six birdies from inside 10 feet. He won the Allianz Championship in
Iowa the first weekend in June for his 24th career title. The next
event was rained out near Boston and the tour was off last week
because of the U.S. Open.

"I didn't drive it very well today, but I made some putts and I
could have made a few more," said Morgan, who is fourth on the
money list and has finished in the top 10 in his last three
tournaments. "I made a few birdies out of the rough today, so it's

That wasn't the case last week when Winged Foot's graduated
rough offered little chance to correct errant tee shots.

"You have a pretty good mind-set coming from a place where the
fairways were that narrow and the greens that tough," Doyle said.
"You don't beat yourself up quite as much here. Even if you leave
the fairway you have to remind yourself you can make a par."

Doyle bogeyed his final hole at Winged Foot and missed playing
the weekend because of that.

"I got things signed by Phil and Tiger, so I accomplished a
couple of things," Doyle said, drawing a laugh. "People saying
you played well doesn't do too much for me, but it seemed to excite
some of my buddies. On 18 I executed the shot the way I wanted to,
but it went a foot too far and I had no chance to get up and

That wasn't the case on Friday. The opening bogey -- his drive
found a hole in the first cut of rough and he had to lay up -- was a
distant memory after four straight birdies, the first three on
putts of 8, 7 and 1 foot. His second bogey was on the par-4 15th
after a poor tee shot, but he came right back with his final birdie
of the day, from 12 feet on the 178-yard par-3.

"You can never get too excited or too down," said Doyle, who
has two top 10 finishes this season, including a fifth behind
Morgan in Iowa. He has finished in the top 10 in this event five of
the last seven years. "You really have to keep an even keel."

Morgan backloaded his round with five birdies on the second
nine, including four in a five-hole stretch starting at No. 12.

"If you're hitting it well here, you'll have opportunities for
birdies," he said.

Ten players were at 69 including defending champion Ron Streck
and Jay Haas, who came into this tournament having won his last
three Champions Tour starts, one short of the record set by Chi Chi
Rodriguez in 1987.

"I played well, but I'm really disappointed considering I was 4
under with six holes to play and then doubled-bogeyed 13 (a par-3)
and bogeyed 18," said Haas, who made the cut at the Open and
finished at 15 over, 10 shots behind winner Geoff Ogilvy. "This
wasn't such penalty rough as Winged Foot, but it's still a darned
good golf course."

Former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden made his first
appearance in this event and opened with a 77. ... The field will
start from the first and 10th tees on Saturday and Sunday because
of concerns over the forecast for late afternoon thunderstorms. ...
The first prize is $225,000 from a purse of $1.5 million. ... Tom
Jenkins had five straight birdies starting at No. 8 in his 69. It
was the 11th time on tour this year a player had a five-birdie run.