Larry Nelson, the American veteran on a mission after being overlooked for the 1997 Ryder Cup captaincy, seized the first-round lead at the Tucson Open in Arizona. He plundered the National course for eight birdies on the way to a seven-under-par 65 in ideal conditions.
He led by one stroke from his fellow Americans, Dillard Pruitt and Tim Herron, both of whom also played at Tucson National. The best score at the more difficult Starr Pass course was a 67 by Joel Edwards.
Nelson, 48, was widely expected to captain the 1997 United States Ryder Cup team, but was overlooked in favour of Tom Kite. After Kite was named captain late last year, Nelson, winner of three major titles - the US PGA twice and a US Open - set himself a goal to make the team as a player.
The three-times Ryder Cup player plans to enter as many as 23 events this year to give himself a better chance of accumulating qualifying points.
While Nelson made a sound start, Phil Mickelson, the defending champion, had a respectable 69 at Starr Pass, which played on average two strokes harder than Tucson National.
NORTEL TUCSON OPEN (Arizona) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 65 L Nelson. 66 D Pruitt, T Herron. 67 J Morse, J Edwards, E Zerman (It). 68 W Levi, S Verplank, M O'Meara, G Morgan, S Pate, S Murphy, D Pohl, C Strange, L Roberts, M Brooks, R Black, B Bryant, O Uresti. 69 C Byrum, B Estes, R Fehr, L Janzen, R Tway, M Hulbert, P Blackmar, B Kamm, P Mickelson, W Austin, D Duval, M Bradley, L Parsons (Aus), D Toms.
n Liselotte Neumann shot a five-under-par 67 in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions in Orlando, the first event of the LPGA season. The Swede has a one-shot lead over the American Martha Nause. The Britons, Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas, were five shots off the lead.