Golf: Price at peace with his game: Europeans struggle at Bay Hill

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The Independent Online
NICK PRICE wears the title of 'Nicest Guy in Golf' well. The other players here at the Nestle Invitational have been remarking all week about Price's air of confidence and invincibility, and none begrudges the Zimbabwean his success.

Four days after shooting an impeccable 66, hitting all 18 greens, and winning the Honda Classic, Price shot a 66 yesterday to take the first-round lead by two strokes from five players, including Vijay Singh, Greg Norman and Larry Mize. Price's six-under-par 30 coming in was the lowest score ever shot on Bay Hill's back nine.

It was not a good day for the Europeans, Ian Woosnam returning their best score by far, a one-under- par 71. Peter Baker and Colin Montgomerie both shot 74s, Montgomerie making an impressive recovery with 33 on the back nine after going out in 41. Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer, both of whom finished in the top 10 last week at the Honda Classic, were three over par on 75.

Price, however, has never played better. 'I've wanted to play this way all my life,' he said. 'I'm not feeling any pressure at all. I've nothing to prove to myself or anyone else.'

Although he is third in the world rankings, behind Norman and Nick Faldo, Price has won 12 times over the last two years, including his first major - the USPGA Championship - and had 39 top 10 finishes, with global earnings just shy of dollars 5m ( pounds 3.4m).

After a two-birdie, two-bogey start on the front nine, the day warmed up enough for Price to remove his cashmere sweater, and his game warmed up enough for him to pick up four birdies and an eagle.

Singh attributed yesterday's bogeyless round of 68 to a familiarity with the course and the return to an old set of irons two weeks ago. 'I feel more at home over here,' he said. 'I know the greens now.'

Norman also played a solid round with no bogeys, missing just two fairways and no greens.

NESTLE INVITATIONAL (Bay Hill, Orlando, Fla) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 66 N Price (Zim). 68 V Singh (Fiji), G Norman (Aus), L Mize, S Simpson. 69 S Lowery, K Triplett, M Sullivan, M Allen, M Springer, T Watson, J Gallagher Jnr, G Waite (NZ). 70 B Crenshaw, B Glasson, M Calcavecchia, G Kraft, L Roberts, J Delsing, G Day, P Goydos, D Love, J Haas, A Magee, D Pohl, M Carnevale, P Goydos, B Lohr. Selected: 71 I Woosnam (Wal). 74 P Baker (Eng), C Montgomerie (Sco). 75 B Langer (Ger), S Lyle (Sco). 76 E Els (SA).

Phillip Price shot the best round of his career on the way to a course record 64, seven under par, in the Portuguese Open at Sintra yesterday. The 27-year-old Welshman has a one-stroke, first-round lead over the Italian, Costantino Rocca.

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