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[ PGA GRAND SLAM ]
Goosen grabs early lead
POIPU BEACH, Kauai » Retief Goosen considered skipping the PGA Grand Slam of Golf because of the recent birth of his daughter.
Goosen, the U.S. Open champion, shot a 7-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead yesterday over PGA champion Vijay Singh in the exclusive four-player tournament.
Tracy Goosen gave birth to Ella Ann just in time for her husband to spend a little time with the newborn before traveling halfway around the world from England to Hawaii.
"By Friday lunchtime, if the baby wasn't there, then I was going to pull out. So the baby came, luckily, early Friday morning," he said. "It was hard to leave. Tracy wasn't too happy. ... But I'm here now. I'm going to make the trip worth my while coming over here."
Masters winner Phil Mickelson had two eagles and shot a 68, and British Open champion Todd Hamilton opened with a 70 in the 36-hole tournament for the year's major champions.
The elite foursome won a combined 15 events and $23,639,340 this year on the PGA Tour.
Goosen and Singh fought for the lead throughout the day until Goosen emerged on the 550-yard No. 18 by tapping in for birdie.
Singh, coming off an amazing season that included nine wins and a tour record $10,905,166 in earnings, three-putted the final hole. He also summed up his record year in a couple words: "pretty good."
The Fijiian fell into a tie with Goosen on the 501-yard, par-4 16th after driving into the right rough and hitting a 9-iron shot 75 yards short of the hole.
"I'm pretty pleased with the way I played, not the way I played, but the way I scored," said Singh, testing out a new driver.
On an 89-degree winter day with only the softest of ocean breezes at the scenic 7,108-yard Poipu Bay Golf Course, the players attacked the flags early.
Goosen masterfully handled the tricky Bermuda greens and used his hot putter to set the pace with birdies on five of the first six holes. The South African's longest putt of the day was a 60-footer on No. 3.
"When you get off to a start like that, the momentum sort of carries you on," said Goosen, who finished third at the 2001 Grand Slam. "It was nice to do that. I'm very happy with the round."
Singh eagled the 573-yard sixth to pull within a stroke of the lead. He tied Goosen at 5-under with a birdie on the next hole.
On the eagle, Singh drove 329 yards and hit a 5-wood second shot from 244 yards to set up his 15-foot putt.
Goosen's only hiccup on the front nine was when he sailed a lob wedge over the green on No. 8. His chip ran 35 feet past the hole and he finished with his first bogey, giving Singh his first lead.
But Goosen made up the stroke on the next hole. Both players made the turn at 31 for a two-shot advantage over Hamilton and a three-stroke lead over Mickelson.
Mickelson, who missed several birdie putts by inches, holed a flop shot from 25 yards to eagle the 524-yard No. 2, drawing a roar from the gallery. He parred the rest of the front nine.
He was inconsistent on the back nine, with birdies on Nos. 10 and 14 offset by bogeys on Nos. 12 and 15. But he eagled the 18th.
"There wasn't any wind, so the course didn't have its normal defense," Mickelson said. "I knew we were going to have to shoot some pretty low scores to keep pace. I was lucky to shoot 4-under and be only three back."
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