Allenby leads; Compton shows heart


POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. » Robert Allenby has contended at the Honda Classic each of the last two years, so it's no surprise for him to be atop the leaderboard at PGA National.

Erik Compton's day, however, was far from expected.

Allenby shot a 4-under 66 yesterday to take a one-shot lead after the opening round at PGA National, surviving a day when the wind blew flags straight and the only solace for players was receptive greens. He had a tap-in on the par-4 ninth—his final hole—to break away from what was an eight-way tie for the lead.

Allenby missed a 2 1/2 -footer on the previous hole, so he left nothing to chance on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 inches.

“;I just sort of played within myself, took one or two clubs more when it was into the wind, tried not to force it and just tried to feel my way around the golf course,”; said Allenby, who lives just a couple of miles from PGA National and finished tied for fourth and tied for fifth in the last two years there.

By the time darkness suspended play, six players—Charlie Wi, Jeff Overton, Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Will Mackenzie and Sergio Garcia—all were one shot behind Allenby.

But the big story was Compton, the South Florida native who underwent heart-transplant surgery for the second time last year.

He made a triple-bogey on his second hole, which would have deflated some. Compton, however, said it was the kickstart he needed.

With his nearly 2-week-old newborn getting pushed along in a stroller, Compton birdied three straight holes after making the turn and got to 1 under when play was stopped in his second PGA Tour event since the lifesaving procedure.

He'll return this morning—along with eight others—trying to get up and down from 30 yards at the par-4 8th.

“;I'd rather sleep on being 1 under than hitting a (crap) tee shot, then hitting a chip shot when I can't see the grain and couldn't see what's going on,”; Compton said. “;I'm only three back. I played really well despite having a triple.”;

A foursome of players, including Chris Riley, shot 68s to be two off Allenby's lead.

And then there was Mathias Gronberg, who endured whatever the opposite of a feel-good story is.

Gronberg was 1 over through six holes, a fairly nondescript beginning. The last 12 holes, well, they were ones that he'll likely never forget.

Put it this way: He didn't even manage to play bogey golf.

Gronberg had three triple-bogeys in a four-hole span on the back side and became the first player to shoot 50 over nine holes since Phil Tataurangi at Greensboro nine years ago—Billy Casper's 106 in the first round at the 2005 Masters doesn't count because it officially went into the books as a WD when he didn't turn in the card.

Gronberg saved par at the 18th to shoot a staggering 89, 19 over par—the 31st time this year someone has failed to break 80 in a PGA Tour round, and two shots worse than Robert Floyd's 87 in the third round at Pebble Beach. Floyd shot 80-80-87 that week.

“;That's a record for me,”; Gronberg said.

Cink was coming off a third-place finish last week at Match Play, his first tournament after a three-week layoff after missing the cut at the FBR Open. He took the break to recharge, some practice here, some skiing there, and his game seemed a bit sweeter to him yesterday.

“;It's the kind of course where you are going to be thrown some curves and you need to adapt and roll with the punches, so to speak,”; Cink said. “;And that's what I was able to do today out there.”;

He played 111 holes last week at Match Play, had some flight delays going through Atlanta because of terrible weather that hit the East Coast, and was so exhausted Wednesday morning that he didn't even want to get out of bed.

“;I was really tired. That's when it hit me,”; said Cink, whose last time at PGA National was as a junior, when Chris Couch won a tournament that featured someone named Tiger Woods. “;But I got a good rest and now, you know, the adrenaline kicks in. Here we are.”;

Moanalua senior Tadd Fujikawa carded a 71, which left him tied for 41st place among golfers who completed their rounds, five strokes off the lead. Defending champion Ernie Els shot 73, as did Camilo Villegas, Davis Love III and Rocco Mediate, among others.


Creamer tied with pair of Parks

SINGAPORE » American Paula Creamer overcame an illness to shoot a 5-under 67 for a share of the lead after the first round of the $2 million HSBC Women's Champions.

Creamer, who finished third last week at the Honda LPGA Thailand after losing the final-round lead, battled through a likely bout of food poisoning to join compatriot Jane Park and Brazil's Angela Park atop the leaderboard at the Tanah Merah Country Club course.

“;For some reason I putt better when I'm sick,”; Creamer said. “;At the beginning, I was very sick, very nauseous. It must have been something I ate.”;

Play was delayed for 52 minutes in the afternoon because of lightning.

Japan's Ai Miyazato and South Korea's Seon Hwa Lee finished the round one shot back of the leaders at 4-under 68.

World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the defending champion, tied four other players with a 69.

“;Anytime you start under par, it's always good,”; Ochoa said. “;I think I need to be a little more aggressive.”;

Second-ranked Yani Tseng of Taiwan and world No. 4 Suzann Pettersen of Norway each shot an even-par 72.

Fifteen-year-old Singapore native Joey Poh, the only amateur in the field, had a 6-over 78.


Barnes in front in New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand » Australia's Kurt Barnes shot an 8-under 64 to take the first-round lead in the New Zealand PGA Championship.

The long-hitting Barnes had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey on the Bob Charles-designed Clearwater course. Australia's Ryan Hammond opened with a 65. Hammond birdied nine of the first 14 holes, including six in a row, but bogeyed 15 and 17.

Americans Jason Enloe and David Branshaw opened with 66s in the event sanctioned by the Australasian and Nationwide tours. Americans Josh Teater, Major Manning, Scott Dunlap were three strokes back at 67 along with New Zealand's Gareth Paddison, Australians Alistair Presnell and Andre Stolz and Sweden's Jonas Blixt.

Presnell is coming off a victory Sunday in the Moonah Classic.

Danny Lee, the New Zealand amateur star who won the Johnnie Walker Classic two weeks ago, opened with a 71. The 18-year-old Lee, also the U.S. Amateur champion, plans to turn pro after the Masters. Born in South Korea, he moved to New Zealand at age 8.

Barnes had a chance to tie the course record, but his 20-foot birdie try on the final hole slid past the cup. He rebounded after missing the cut last week in the Moonah Classic in Australia.

“;I've been playing well the last few months but been running into trouble with the flat stick,”; Barnes said. “;I changed putters after last week at Moonah, made a phone call to my old swing coach and got my short game on track.

“;It was an 8-minute phone call that I probably should have made eight months ago. ... He told me what he thought I needed to do to get back to the way I was putting and it certainly worked today.”;