Tom Watson, the defending champ, shot 63 on Friday.
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images
Friday, April 18, 2008

LUTZ, Fla. (AP) — Defending champion Tom Watson shot an 8-under 63 on Friday to take a three-stroke lead over Mark Wiebe and David Eger after the first round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.

``You ride (this) pony as long as it will go. It's like the Pony Express,'' the 58-year-old Watson said. ``You ride it till it drops. You know there's going to be some times when nothing seems to happen right. Everything happened right today.''

The five-time British Open champion shot a 7-under 28 on his last nine hole, the front nine of the TPC Tampa Bay, missing just two birdie putts - a 12-footer on No. 2 and a 20-footer on No. 8. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

``I could've birdied every hole,'' said Watson, who missed the cut in the Masters last week with consecutive 75s. ``I've never shot a 28 before. I ran the tables on that front side.''

Watson did make two bogeys - one on his on first hole at No. 10 and another on 17 - but once he made the turn, he cruised on the front nine, needing just 11 putts - including a 50-footer for a birdie on No. 4.

``I got a new putter this week,'' said Watson, a 10-time winner on the 50-and-over tour. ``It's the same model I always use, but it felt real good after those first two holes. When I made the 50-footer, I felt that this was going to be a good day. When you make a 50-footer and you start off making a few birdies in a row, you just say, 'Let's ride this thing for as long as it will go.' And I felt I did that.''

Mark Wiebe is coming off a victory April 6 in the inaugural Cap Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic.

Scott Hoch, a two-time winner this year, was four strokes back at 67 along with Mark James and Vicente Fernandez. Bobby Wadkins, Tom Purtzer and Mike Reid had 68s.

Bernhard Langer, also a two-time winner this year, opened with a 69. Three-time PGA Tour winner Mike Hulbert also had a 69 in his tour debut. He turned 50 on Monday.

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