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Estes, Armour take the early lead at Ginn

Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

Bob Estes shot 64 in the first round.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Tommy Armour III could have called it a day after 17 holes. His back was aching, darkness was settling in and tournament officials gave all remaining players the option of heading home.

He stuck it out, though, and wound up tied for the lead at the Ginn sur Mer Classic.

Armour's third straight birdie, a 10-footer amid the shadows of the final hole, wrapped up a 9-under 64 that matched Bob Estes atop the leaderboard after the opening round at a soggy Tesoro Club.

The horn to suspend play blew at 6:39 p.m. Thursday, or about 7 1/2 hours after Armour arrived for work. He didn't even consider leaving early, and took aim at the 18th flagstick.

``I wasn't that far,'' said Armour, who turned 48 earlier this month. ``I was 133 yards, so I could see it. I'm not that old yet.''

It was his 10th birdie of the day, and he's 9-under after one round for the first time in his career.

``When you make 10 birdies, it was all good,'' Armour said. ``I hit it close a few times, made some putts, did everything.''

Sounds an awful lot like Estes' round.

Estes birdied six straight holes - his longest streak of the season and one shy of his career best - to highlight his round. He made the turn in 2-under, then shot a 30 on the front side, which was his second nine.

Estes was flawless with nine birdies and no bogeys. He only missed one green, capping his day with a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth.

``The game is still always a struggle,'' said Estes, who also shot a 64 last week. ``So, even if I'm making six birdies in a row, or like when I was making seven birdies in a row in Memphis a couple years ago, people are like, 'Man, you must have been in the zone.' I'm still pretty relaxed, but I'm still working really hard.''

The darkness kept 22 players from finishing Thursday.

Craig Kanada, Daniel Chopra and Bryce Molder were three shots off the pace at 6-under 67, while another group including Frank Lickliter II and Steve Flesch - a two-time winner this year - finished another shot back.

Wet conditions and long gaps between some greens and tees contributed to Thursday's slow round. Play on Friday started an hour behind schedule, meaning the first round wasn't over until nearly 10 a.m., and tournament officials conceded the second round wouldn't likely be finished until Saturday morning.

Among those who had to finish their first round Friday morning were Derek and Daryl Fathauer, seniors at Louisville who grew up not far from Tesoro Club. They're the first identical twins to play in a PGA Tour event since Curtis and Allen Strange at the 1981 Texas Open; Derek was at 1-under 72, Daryl at 3-over 76.

Unlike many players in the field who are chasing a top-125 spot on the money list and full playing privileges for 2008, Flesch obviously isn't worried about his card.

He's here to secure a trip to the Masters, a perk that comes to those finishing in the top 30 in earnings.

``It's amazing how a couple weeks can change your whole year out here,'' said Flesch, who has won two of his previous seven starts.

Kanada has three children, so he already planned to play in the season finale at Disney next week. He tied for 10th at the Sony Open in January, and has made only three cuts in his last 10 starts - watching his spot on the money list slip from 94th to 123rd.

``I have to admit, I've been looking and trying to figure things out about how much it's going to take,'' Kanada said. ``It probably hasn't helped me, but at the same time, when you're out there inside the ropes it's still just the game of golf.''

Let's make the math real simple: First prize here this week is $810,000. That'd take care of everything.

``I've been doing this for long enough where I know that being inside of 125 would be a really good thing,'' Kanada said.

Divots: John Daly shot 75. ... Will McKenzie withdrew after shooting a 79, and Jose Coceres (76) withdrew Friday morning. ... Eric Axley (77) was the day's big winner: His ace at the 218-yard 17th hole earned him a Chrysler Sebring convertible. ``That's my 17th hole-in-one and the first time I've won anything for any of them,'' said Axley, who hit 4-iron. ... Officials moved tees forward because of soggy conditions and players were allowed to lift, clean and place shots. ... Kevin Na (68) started with an eagle, holing out from 100 yards. He then made a triple bogey at the 12th. ... Kevin Stadler, who started the week 125th on the money list, shot an 83.

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