Saturday, February 21, 2009

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Vicente Fernandez and Don Pooley shot 4-under 68s on Friday to share the first-round lead in The ACE Group Classic, while Jay Haas finished a stroke back after a two-stroke penalty for hitting a piece of pine straw in a hazard.

Wayne Levi matched Haas with a 69 on the new TPC Treviso Bay, and Bernhard Langer, Loren Roberts, Gene Jones, Dan Forsman, Fulton Allem, Mike Goodes and Jim Chancey opened with 70s. Goodes won Allianz Championship on Sunday for his first Champions Tour victory. Chancey made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

After hitting out of the hazard, Haas said it crossed his mind that touching the pine straw on his backswing might be a penalty for moving loose impediments in a hazard. Haas hit his fourth shot to 2 feet, but then missed the putt.

On the next hole, Haas talked to a rules official, who returned two holes later and told Haas that it was indeed a two-stroke penalty.

"Being 5 under going to 12 and hitting that 2 feet from the hole, and 15 minutes later being 2 under, that wasn't too special," Haas said.

The 62-year-old Fernandez, the 2003 winner in Naples, holed a 60-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Fernandez hasn't won since, and hasn't been as consistent as he was his first eight years on the tour. The past month, the Argentine star has been bothered by back spasms, and he couldn't even practice Thursday.

The 57-year-old Pooley, winless since 2003, birdied four straight holes, then parred the last six coming in.

"I felt like I got things in pretty good order to start the year, and I've played pretty well," he said.

Twenty-seven players shot par or better on the new layout, designed by Arthur Hills with Hal Sutton serving as a player consultant. Sutton was among the leaders at 3 under, but double-bogeyed 15 and bogeyed the last two holes to drop to even par.

The wind picked up as the day went on, and the scores went up right along with it.

Jeff Sluman shot a 75, ending his streak of par or better rounds at 31. Sluman's streak was the third-longest in Champions Tour history. Roberts set the record of 37 in 2006-07, breaking the mark of 32 set by Larry Nelson in 2000.

Curtis Strange (78), Hale Irwin (79), and defending champion Scott Hoch (80) also struggled. Hoch is playing despite tendinitis and arthritis in his left wrist that forced him to skip the season-opener in Hawaii and withdraw last week from the Allianz Championship.

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