<
>

Woody Austin leads PGA Tour Champions event

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Woody Austin had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

Playing his final nine holes after opening on No. 10, the 52-year-old Austin birdied Nos. 2-5 and 7-8 on Omni Tucson National's Catalina Course.

"I basically hit it really close," Austin said. "I got jump-started, I holed out a bunker shot on 2 for birdie after hitting two really good shots and being dead. I didn't get my first one out of the bunker, and then I holed the next bunker shot for birdie, which really got me going.

"Then I knocked the flag over for a couple, I hit it about 2 feet on the next hole, then I hit it 8 feet on the next hole, and then I hit it 7 feet on the next hole. And then the par 3, I hit a 5-iron to about 7 feet, and then I hit No. 8 in 2, I only had about a 20-footer for eagle and two-putted."

Winless in 27 starts on the 50-and-over tour, Austin won the 2013 Sanderson Farms Championship at age 49 for the last of his four PGA Tour titles.

"My game today is not indicative," Austin said. "I haven't played that good. I usually don't play very good in the beginning of the year. The benefit I have this week is I took my two boys and their buddy on a golfing trip this past week, so I got in some golf, which I haven't been able to do. I actually played Pebble Beach on Sunday, Spyglass on Monday, Spanish Bay on Tuesday, so I at last got some golf in before this week, so that was necessary because I haven't really played that much."

Scott Verplank and Billy Andrade were a stroke back.

"I kind of kept the ball in play and hit good iron shots, putted pretty solid," Verplank said. "I hit a couple of tee shots that I wasn't happy with, but I've been hitting a lot of tee shots that I wasn't happy with. It was a beautiful day and just kind of played like I knew what I was doing."

The five-time PGA Tour winner has fought a series of injuries.

"I had another cortisone shot in my shoulder last week," Verplank said. "Just had so many little ailment things, it's just been hard to get much rhythm. But it's nice today. I think coming to great weather will help. Hopefully, it will keep going."

Andrade closed with a bogey on the par-4 18th after hitting within a foot of the water. With both feet in the water, he was able to blast out with a sand wedge.

"I was just hoping and praying that a snake or something wasn't going to come up and bite me before I hit the shot," Andrade said. "Last year, same kind of scenario, hit the same kind of drive like that. It's 300 yards to the water on that line into the wind, so I didn't think I could get it to the water. Last year, I did and I did it again this year, so, I'm just not very smart, I guess."

Mark Calcavecchia and Gene Sauers shot 67, and defending champion Marco Dawson was in the group at 68. Bernhard Langer, coming off victory Feb. 14 in Naples, Florida, in the last tour event, opened with a 69.

"We had a month off and I've been playing great every day," Sauers said. "I was like, 'Man, I wish there were tournaments the past four weeks.' I'm playing really well, hitting the ball solid. I'm looking forward to some good things."