Stiles leads Nationwide Tour Championship

Stiles leads Nationwide Tour Championship

McKINNEY, Texas (AP) — Darron Stiles, already guaranteed a PGA Tour spot next year, shot a 7-under 64 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over playing partner Jeff Klauk in the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship.

Stiles and Klauk, both former Florida Southern players, were paired together because of their positions on the money list. Stiles is seventh at $303,427 and Klauk eighth at $299,418, with the final top 25 earning 2009 PGA Tour cards.

The winner will get $180,000 from the $1 million purse.

Stiles hit 13 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens at TPC Craig Ranch.

“There are still three more days, but it’s nice to get out of the gate this well, especially this week,” Stiles said. “It looks like we’ll be paired together for round two and it would be nice to keep Florida Southern one-two for the rest of the week.”

Garrett Osborn and Spencer Levin shot 66s, and Bryce Molder, Marc Leishman, Colt Knost and Bill Lunde opened with 67s.

“I played some good shots today, but I had some loose ones and that’s what I have to work on,” said Knost, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champion from SMU.

Osborn is 47th on the money list.

“I think sometimes people perform better when their back’s up against the wall,” Osborn said. “My mind-set is to win.”

Hunter Haas, 26th on the money list, had a 68.

“I did the same thing I’ve been doing every week, eat a good breakfast, stretch and get ready to play,” the Texan said. “It’s still early and it can come down to the last day, but this was nice.”

Chris Tidland, $469 ahead of Haas at No. 25 on the money list, shot a 71.

Klauk birdied Nos. 15-17, the last one a par 3 where he put his 8-iron tee shot an inch behind the cup.

“My iron game kicked in there at the end,” said Klauk, the Melwood Prince George’s County Open winner in May. “This week I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. This week is pretty easy for me because I’ve always come trying to attain a goal. This year I’ve already reached that goal.”

Stiles was equally as good with a 3-under 33 on the front nine, then birdies on three of the first five holes on the back nine, Nos. 10, 12 and 14. He capped his round with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par 5 18th to take the outright lead. Both Klauk and Stiles had bogey free rounds.

“That’s about the range of putts I’ve been making a lot this year, so it was good to see it go in,” Stiles said. “I wanted to take the trouble out of play on my second shot, but I hit my 3-wood over the green. I was glad to get up and down.”

Stiles won this year on the Nationwide Tour in New Zealand, but it wasn’t considered an official victory because it was shortened to 36 holes.

“I want to win this tournament and finish No. 1 on the money list and I can do that with a victory this week,” Stiles said.

Season money leader Brendon de Jonge and No. 2 Jarrod Lyle shot 69s.

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