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Singh Ties Course Mark, Takes Lead in Houston Open

Associated Press
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page D11

Fresh from inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Vijay Singh tied the course record with an 8-under-par 64 for a one-shot lead yesterday after the first round of the Houston Open in Humble, Tex.

The 42-year-old Fijian, No. 2 in the world rankings, extended his streak of par or better to 56 holes at the Redstone Golf Club, where he won this event a year ago.

Vijay Singh, newly included in the World Golf Hall of Fame, tees off at the Houston Open. (David J. Phillip -- AP)

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Singh laughed when told of his bogey-free string dating from last year, when he finished 11 under and won by two shots.

"Don't mention that," he said. "I struck the ball really well today, had a very good feel of the greens and my speed was good, and when you do that you can make some birdies."

After Singh came Australia's Gavin Coles and Brendan Jones. Eight players were at 67. Six others, including John Daly, were another shot back.

Singh was announced Wednesday as the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame, although he said he learned three weeks ago the honor was coming, meaning it wasn't a distraction.

"My focus this week is coming out here," he said.

Still, the recognition, both off and on the course, was appreciated.

"Every player out there said something about it, so that was good," Singh said.

So was his round.

Starting on the back nine, he had pars on four of his first five holes, then birdied 15, 16 and 17 and made the turn at 4 under. He finished the front side with a flurry, getting birdies on three of the last four holes.

"You sort of expect him to be there," said Coles, on pace to share the lead with Singh before he missed the green and landed in a bunker for a bogey at No. 17.

LPGA TOUR: Natalie Gulbis shot a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Corona Morelia Championship in Morelia, Mexico, while Lorena Ochoa struggled to a 1-over 71 in her second pro event in her homeland.

Audra Burks had an eagle, three birdies and a bogey and finished tied for second with Sweden's Carin Koch, who had five birdies and a bogey in a 4-under 68.

Nancy Scranton offset three bogeys with six birdies and was tied for fourth place with Sweden's Maria Hjorth and Italy's Giulia Sergas at 69 on the Tres Marias Residential Golf Club.

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