Mathis Leads in Memphis

Unlikely leader David Mathis shot 65

Unlikely leader David Mathis shot 65

MEMPHIS, June 10, 2011 (AFP) - David Mathis equalled his best ever round on the US PGA tour, firing a five-under par 65 on Thursday to seize the St. Jude Classic first-round lead.

Mathis claimed the top spot on the leader board late in the day. His round featured six birdies and one bogey and put him one shot in front of a group of five players.

"I don't feel stressed or uncomfortable in the position," Mathis said.

"I know there's tons of golf left. I'm just trying to keep poise about me... There's lots of holes to play between now and Sunday, and so just take it for what it is.

"Be thankful for a good round and try to reproduce it for the next three days," he said.

Those sharing second on 66 included Sweden's Robert Karlsson, who lost a four-hole playoff here a year ago. He was joined by John Merrick, Kris Blanks, Kevin Kisner and Colt Knost.

Keegan Bradley and Argentina's Fabian Gomez both shot 67.

Bradley, who won the Byron Nelson Championship a fortnight ago, is among the few players here this week who can play their way into the US Open by winning at the TPC Southwind for a second tour victory since the last Open.

South African Retief Goosen and Boo Weekley were among a group on 68, while defending champion and world number two Lee Westwood opened with a 69.

Mathis, 37, is back on the US tour for the second time thanks to his 13th-place finish on the Nationwide Tour.

He first joined the PGA Tour in 2009 when he posted a pair of top-25 finishes.

He said a visit with coach Patrick Kelley this week had helped him straighten out his putting line, and it showed as he rolled in a nine-footer to save par at his opening hole -- the 10th.

"That just kind of jump-started my day and (I) just had some confidence," Mathis said. "I was driving the ball in the fairway and hitting irons in spots I was looking to hit them and, you know, just added up to a 65, thankfully."

Then he added a 19-foot birdie at the par-three 11th and eight-footers for birdies on 13 and 16.

He joined the pack at four-under with a birdie at the second and took sole possession of the lead when he hit a wedge on the par-five third within 13 feet and made that for birdie.

He stretched his lead with a four-footer at the fifth, and gave one shot back with a three-putt bogey on his penultimate hole, the eighth.

Karlsson got off to a quick start with three birdies in his first six holes. He bogeyed the 13th from a fairway bunker but bounced back with a birdie at the par-three 14th and nabbed his last birdie of the day at the par-five 16th.

Spain's Sergio Garcia endured a difficult day, opening with a 78 that included an 11 on the par-five third hole, where he found the water along the right side of the fairway three times.

Leading first-round scores here on Thursday in the $5.6 million USPGA Tour St. Jude Classic (USA unless noted):

65 - David Mathis

66 - Kris Blanks, Robert Karlsson (SWE), Kevin Kisner, Colt Knost, John Merrick

67 - Keegan Bradley, Fabian Gomez (ARG)

68 - Marco Dawson, Retief Goosen (RSA), Scott Gutschewski, Kent Jones, Len Mattiace, Shaun Micheel, Martin Piller, Jeff Quinney, Tag Ridings, Heath Slocum, Boo Weekley


69 - Stephen Ames (CAN), John Daly, David Hearn (CAN), Carl Pettersson (SWE), Aron Price (AUS), John Senden (AUS), Camilo Villegas (COL), Lee Westwood (GBR)

70 - Robert Allenby (AUS), Padraig Harrington (IRL), Ryuji Imada (JPN) Sunghoon Kang (KOR), Cameron Percy (AUS), Yang Yong-eun (KOR)

71 - Brian Davis (GBR), Fredrik Jacobson (SWE), Nick O'Hern (AUS), Geoff Ogilvy (AUS), Alexandre Rocha (BRA), Brendon de Jonge (ZIM)

72 - Chris Baryla (CAN), Alex Cejka (GER), Greg Chalmers (AUS), Mark Hensby (AUS), Bi-o Kim (KOR)

73 - Graham Delaet (CAN), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN)

74 - Steven Bowditch (AUS), Richard S. Johnson (SWE), Andrew McLardy (RSA)

75 - Jarrod Lyle (AUS), Rod Pampling (AUS)

78 - Sergio Garcia (ESP)

Stuart Appleby (AUS) WD