Smith takes two-stroke lead at St. Jude


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Chris Smith does not sing karaoke, can’t whistle that well, and the show tunes he knows best are from the movies “Rocky” and “Jaws.” He does play Internet checkers.

When you’ve only won once on the PGA Tour, a little creativity with his official biography can’t hurt.

“I figured I needed to be known for something and figured out a better chance of listing my hobbies than anything else,” Chris Smith said. “Every year – it’s turned into about every three years now – we sit down and change the list in there.”

Smith got to talk about his golf game Thursday by shooting a 6-under 64 that gave him a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the St. Jude Classic. It’s his first lead after one round since March 2004 at the Ford Championship at Doral, and only the fourth in his career.

“I’m certainly not going to go back to my hotel and start figuring out what I’m going to hit on 18 Sunday,” Smith said.

D.A. Points shot a 66. Paul Azinger and Tom Pernice were among only four teeing off in the afternoon to crack the top of the leaderboard with 67s.

Nick Price, a two-time champion with five Top 10s here, shot a 68 and was tied with seven others, including Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia. Defending champion Justin Leonard shot a 72.

Smith was the first golfer to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour with three straight victories on the Nationwide Tour in 1997, and he won the 2002 Buick Classic. But he hasn’t finished inside the top 100 since 2002 when his pay was boosted by that PGA victory.

He finished 154th last year and had only one Top 10 finish. He has made only three cuts in eight events this year, and a tie for 42nd at the BellSouth Classic in April is his best finish in 2006. His score Thursday was his lowest this year by four strokes.

Favorite Gil Morgan leads Senior PGA

EDMOND, Okla. – Gil Morgan was walking off the course at Oak Tree Golf Club when a club member riding in a cart told him: “I told you so!”

Everyone else seemed to be confident that Morgan would have an advantage playing in a major on his home course. But the 59-year-old Morgan entered the Senior PGA Championship just hoping to overcome the inconsistencies that have plagued his game since late in 2004.

Mission accomplished, for one round at least.

Morgan’s 5-under-par 66 – his best score at Oak Tree in competition – gave him a one-shot lead Thursday over playing partner Peter Jacobsen.

Lurking another shot back was a formidable trio: 2001 Senior PGA champion Tom Watson; Jay Haas, who has won his last two Champions Tour events; and Loren Roberts, a three-time winner this year who has yet to finish out of the top 10 in eight previous Champions Tour events.

That Morgan is leading the Senior PGA probably shouldn’t be a surprise – he plays out of Oak Tree and lives within walking distance of the clubhouse.

Nirapathpongporn leads at Corning Classic

CORNING, N.Y. – Virada Nirapathpongporn sure isn’t playing like a rookie.

The 24-year-old former Duke star, who won the 2002 NCAA title and 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur, shot a 5-under 67 on Friday to take sole possession of the lead after two rounds at the LPGA Corning Classic.

Nirapathpongporn, a native of Thailand, was at 133, one shot ahead of Brandie Burton (68) and first-round co-leader Nancy Scranton (69).

Another stroke behind was Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, who had a bogey-free 68 and was tied at 135 with Jeong Jang (69).

Liselotte Neumann (69) was in a two-way tie for sixth at 136 with Hee-Won Han (70). Meena Lee, who matched her career low of 65 to tie Scranton for the first-round lead, faltered with a 72 and was among six players another shot back.

Morgan Pressel, who struggled to a 2-over 74 Thursday, rebounded with an 8-under 64, the best round of the day, to surge into contention in her first tournament as a high school graduate. She was tied with Se Ri Pak (67) and three others at 138.

Given her college and amateur success, Nirapathpongporn is accustomed to leading tournaments. But after an accident two months ago with a resistance tube used for stretching exercises caused internal bleeding in her right eye, she was ecstatic to be playing so well so quickly.

“I just learned a lot, not to take anything for granted,” said Nirapathpongporn, who tied for 19th at last week’s Sybase Classic. “If I ever have a chance, I take it. The injury taught me that. There’s no holding back.”

Burton had three birdies on the tough back nine and just missed a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-5 fifth hole. She, too, was all smiles.