NAPLES, Fla. — The two teams that tied
for the lead of the Shark Shootout arrived there different ways
during Friday's first round.
Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were
hot on the front nine, while Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank
caught fire on the back. The end result was the same: 6-under 66s at
Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
"One side went so well, and the
other side ... we were fighting and nothing was going right,"
said Stricker, the world's No. 3 player.
"It was fun," said Kelly,
who won the Shootout event with Rod Pampling in 2006 in a playoff
with Leonard and Verplank. "Not that the backside wasn't fun,
but we just kind of hit that wall."
Kelly and Stricker birdied No. 5,
eagled No. 6, birdied Nos. 7-9, then added another birdie on No. 12.
But they struggled after that, playing the final six holes in 1
"Just a lot of little
things," Stricker said. "We didn't make the putts. We hit
some good putts that went over the edges."
Leonard and Verplank did the
opposite, with birdies on four of their last six holes. They were 3
under after six, but double-bogeyed No. 9.
"We played well on the back
nine," Verplank said. "We played good on the front, but
had a little hiccup on the ninth hole. We pretty much butchered that
hole from the get-go."
Tim Clark and Chad Campbell were in
third place, one shot back at 5 under, along with Steve Flesch and
Dustin Johnson. Chris DiMarco and Rickie Fowler, the 20-year-old who
is the youngest player in Shootout history, were tied for sixth with
two other teams at 3 under.
The tournament hosted by Greg Norman
continues through Sunday. Teams will play better ball Saturday and a
It's the first time that Norman, who
had shoulder surgery in September, isn't playing in his event.
Verplank helped the pair finish off
the round starting on the par-5 17th. He was in pine straw well off
the green and behind the gallery ropes and trying to decide among a
6- or 7-iron and a putter. He decided to putt it.
"The grass is so firm and it's
cut so low around the greens that I had more confidence in just
whacking at it with a putter," Verplank said.
Verplank nearly holed it out. Leonard
then closed it out with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th.
Clark started the round with a
40-footer for birdie on No. 2, and finished it with a 9-footer on
"It's nice to always finish your
round with a birdie, regardless of what the score is," Clark
Clark and Campbell stayed in
contention despite not doing well on the par-5s. They had three pars
and a bogey.
Flesch, a late replacement for the
injured Fred Couples, and Johnson birdied four of the last six
holes. Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter survived a triple-bogey on the
third hole to finish at 4 under.