Hometown boy makes good at Verizon Heritage

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – With a nerve-racking and disappointing Masters debut behind him, Vaughn Taylor relaxed and played his best round of the year.

Taylor, who grew up in Augusta, Ga., shot an 8-under 63 to take the lead after the first round of the Verizon Heritage on Thursday.

A week ago, Taylor couldn’t make a move around his hometown without someone he knew ready with a comment, question or request. He was edgy and lost focus.

“My phone was ringing off the hook,” Taylor said. “You are asked to do a lot of things. In preparing for a tournament, it’s tough to be able to do it all. … You want to talk to everybody and you feel bad because you just can’t do it.”

The attention proved too much for Taylor to handle. He shot a 75-74 at Augusta National and missed the cut.

Instead of letting the disappointment drag down his slumping season – Taylor had only broken 70 once in his previous 12 rounds coming in – the 30-year-old pushed on to Harbour Town Golf Links and found the play he’d hoped to have at the Masters.

“I came in this week and it just feels easy,” Taylor said.

Taylor stood a stroke ahead of Jim Furyk’s 64 and two in front of Tom Pernice Jr., Billy Mayfair and Duffy Waldorf, tied at 65.

Ernie Els was the only one of golf’s “Big Five” – Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen are the others – competing at Harbour Town after last week’s chase for the green jacket. Els’ uneven round of 71 included three straight bogeys on the 17th, 18th and first holes, and an eagle three on the second hole.

Taylor is a two-time PGA Tour winner who qualified for last week’s major by finishing No. 36 on the 2005 money list. He has struggled more recently, missing cuts at the Nissan Open, the Honda Classic and Bay Hill Invitational before his Masters’ flameout.

At Harbour Town, Taylor rediscovered his game.

He began his run with birdies on Harbour Town’s four closing holes, including a 20-footer from off the back fringe on the famous lighthouse hole of No. 18.

Taylor’s strong play continued on his final nine. Moments after Furyk moved to 7-under with a birdie on the ninth hole, Taylor jammed a 9-iron to about 7 feet to set up the go-ahead birdie.

Taylor was two off the course record of 61 set by David Frost in 1994.

France’s Cevaer leads China Open

BEIJING – Christian Cevaer of France shot a 6-under-par 66 Thursday for a one-stroke lead over six players after the first round of the China Open.

Englishmen Simon Wakefield, Simon Dyson and Ross Fisher were at 67, as were Jose Filipe Lima of Portugal, Peter Hanson of Sweden and Gonzalo Fernandz-Castano of Spain.

Cevaer enjoyed a bogey-free round at Beijing Honghua International Golf Club in a tournament sanctioned by the European and Asian tours .

“I just swung it beautifully and felt great,” he said.

India’s Rahil Gangjee, Australia’s Jarrod Lyle and England’s Miles Tunnicliff and David Lynn were at 68.

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