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Casey takes the early lead in Tampa

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The Associated Press
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 5:49 PM

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Paul Casey changed his schedule leading up the Masters, and it's starting to look like a good move.

Once the fog lifted, Casey played bogey-free on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook on Thursday for a 7-under 64 to take the lead among the early starters at the Transitions Championship.

"The state of my game is going in the right direction," Casey said.

Casey made back-to-back birdies late in his round to surge past Nick Watney, who is coming off the biggest win of his career last week in the World Golf Championship at Doral. Watney had seven birdies in 12 holes before missing a few greens toward the end of his round and settling for a 66.

John Senden would have joined Watney except for his second hole of the day.

The Australian opened with a birdie and was in position for another on the par-5 11th. But at the top of his swing with a 3-wood from the light rough, he noticed the ball move and couldn't keep from hitting it. Once he hit his third to the green, he mentioned the slight movement to his caddie and called a rules official. Senden called the one-shot penalty on himself and ended up with a 67.

"I felt like I needed to talk about it because it was bugging me, you know what I mean? And you have to do the right thing with this game of golf, right?" he said.

Also at 67 were Honda Classic winner Rory Sabbatini and Justin Leonard, who believes he is close to breaking out of a two-year slump.

The conditions could not have been much better - plenty of sunshine, minimal wind and true greens. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is among the strongest on the Florida swing, and the tournament has been attracting strong fields.

The gallery was as large as it has been in years, most of them followed a featured group of Watney, Bubba Watson, and PGA champion Martin Kaymer, the No. 1 player in the world making his debut at Innisbrook.

"It's a fantastic golf course, one of the best I've played in America, to be honest," Kaymer said after a 68. "It's very difficult. You have to hit a lot of good tee shots."

Casey made it look easy at times.


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