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Watson displays putting touch of his golden years to take lead



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He recorded eight birdies on his way to an 8-under par 64 at MasterCard.

KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii (AP) -- Exhibiting a putting touch reminiscent of his prime, Tom Watson shot a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 Friday to take a two-stroke lead over Wayne Levi after the first round of the MasterCard Championship.

Watson made eight birdies and didn't have a 5 on his scorecard at Hualalai Golf Club in shooting his lowest round since a 66 last year in the season-opening event on the Champions Tour.

The eight-time major champion was winless in 2004 as he battled hip and shoulder injuries and weathered the emotional loss of his longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, who died in April of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Levi also had a bogey-free opening round. He made consecutive birdies at Nos. 4-5, and finished with three birdies on each nine.

Large group close

Vicente Fernandez, who took two months off to allow a torn tendon in his left ring finger to heal, chipped in twice for birdie to lead a large group at 5-under 67. Fernandez also avoided making a bogey. Also at 67 were 2004 player of the year Craig Stadler, Dana Quigley, Morris Hatalsky and John Jacobs.

Quigley, the 2003 champion and runner-up last year, shot his ninth consecutive round in the 60s at Hualalai.

Six players, including defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller, were in with 68.

Despite stiff winds that dissipated slightly later in the day, all but five golfers in the 37-player field toured the 7,097-yard course designed by Jack Nicklaus at par or better.




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