Veteran Lon Hinkle concluded his round by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt for seven-under-par 64 and a two-shot lead after the first round of the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic today at Kingsmill.
At 66 are former NCAA champion Jay Haas and two players fresh from qualifying school, Steve Pate and Mike Hulbert. Frank Conner, Larry Rinker, Paul Azinger, Mark Hayes, Mike Reid and Wayne Grady are at 67.
Curtis Strange, the PGA Tour's leading money winner playing on his home course, was among 23 players at 70, including Tony DeLuca of Vienna, Va. Defending champion Ronnie Black was among 12 golfers at 68, as was former Frederick, Md., pro Donnie Hammond.
Hinkle, 35, played so poorly in recent tournaments at Atlanta and Memphis that he skipped last week's Canadian Open and went home to Dallas to "regroup."
What he found watching videotapes of his performances were an incomplete backswing and some late-round mistakes that cost him plenty.
There were no costly miscues today. Hinkle started by sinking a 10-foot par putt, and then made three birdies for a front-nine 32. He added birdies on the 11th, 15th and 16th holes and came to the par-4 finisher six under. There, he hit a 300-yard drive, put a 143-yard nine-iron shot 25 feet from the hole, and sank the putt for his seventh birdie.
"I was very conscious of my swing today," Hinkle said. "I have a tendency to start my downswing before I complete my backswing."
Strange needs $10,727 to surpass Tom Watson's 1980 season record of $530,808.
Haas birdied five straight holes starting at the 10th. "This was one of the best hitting rounds I've ever had," he said. "I hit every green and only missed one fairway. I think I've made five straight birdies a few times before."
Bespectacled Hulbert made seven birdies for his best round on Tour. He was four under par and on the leader board after nine holes in the Kemper, but shot a third-round 80 and earned only $1,000.
"This week, I'm going to have fun," said Hulbert, of Orlando, Fla. "I told myself, 'Don't be afraid of nothin' all week.' I'll try not to look at the scoreboard, just play, and see what happens."
Steve Pate, who is from Los Angeles and is not related to golfers Jerry Pate or Alan Pate, lost to Wayne Levi three weeks ago in a playoff for the Atlanta Classic title.
Said Pate, "I putted today about as well as I have all year." He made seven birdies, and finished his round with a 10-foot putt that saved par on the 18th green.
Black shot a final-round 63 to win last year, which was the lowest final round of the year, and his eight-shot overhaul of Willie Wood was the most strokes made up in a final round.
Today, Black one-putted the first 10 greens. He made five birdies, but a poor eight-iron shot on the par-3 17th hole left him with a bogey and a disappointing finish.
Black is amid radical swing changes after "hitting the ball worse than I've ever been hitting it" in the last few months.
"I was really nervous on the first tee today," Black said.
His biggest miscue was on the par-5 seventh hole, where he hit his second shot on the toe of his three-wood and the ball went out of bounds, leading to a bogey.
Calvin Peete, twice winner of this event, shot 74 and is in danger of missing the 36-hole cut for the second straight year. Mark Guttenberg of Penderbrook in Fairfax, Va., shot 71. Regan O'Rourke of Potomac, Md., carded 73. Bruce Lehnhard of Lake of the Woods, near Fredericksburg, Va., had 79.