CROMWELL, Conn. – Golf is fun again for Ben Curtis.

The 2003 British Open champ is winless since hoisting the claret jug and has only two top 10 finishes. But his confidence is back and, in the past few weeks, so is his game. Curtis shot a 6-under 64 Thursday for a share of the first-round lead with J.L. Lewis at the Buick Championship.

Curtis began a turnaround last month when he finished third at the Western Open and then contended early at the PGA Championship with a first-round 67 at Baltusrol for a share of the lead.

“Just seems like one good thing’s led to another,” Curtis said. “Everything has kind of come together at the right time. It’s just fun to go out and play again.”

Curtis birdied his 17th hole, and Lewis birdied his 18th to emerge from a group of players bunched at 5 under. Their rounds were two of the eight bogey-free opening rounds.

Kevin Sutherland, Justin Rose, Franklin Langham, Vaughn Taylor, coming off a win last week at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and NCAA individual runner-up Michael Putnam, who is making his PGA Tour debut, are a stroke back.

Former U.S. Open winner Corey Pavin is among a group of four finishing at 4 under.

Curtis opened with consecutive birdies and played error-free throughout. He grabbed the lead by rolling in a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th.

Quigley in four-way tie atop leaderboard

ALOHA, Ore. – Dana Quigley could hardly believe he made a 451/2-foot eagle putt to close out the first round of the Tradition on Thursday.

“Seemed like 25,” he said, joking. “I must be putting well.”

The putt on No. 18 gave Quigley 5-under 67 and a share of the lead at the Tradition, the final major of the year on the Champions Tour.

Loren Roberts, John Harris and D.A. Weibring also were at 5 under at the Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club in the suburbs west of Portland, where temperatures Thursday reached 90.

Defending champ Matthew stays course

DUBLIN, Ohio – Defending champion Catriona Matthew was one of five players tied for the lead Thursday – in the biggest first-round logjam this year on the LPGA Tour – at the Wendy’s Championship for Children

Matthew shot a shot 6-under-par 66, a score matched by Paula Marti, Soo-Yun Kang, Heather Daly-Donofrio and Marisa Baena. Another nine players were a shot back as the 144-player field took advantage of soft greens and a short course to post 69 subpar scores.

The five leaders make up an international team all by themselves, representing Scotland (Matthew), Spain (Marti), South Korea (Kang), the United States (Daly-Donofrio) and Colombia (Baena).

Matthew, who came out of the pack to win late in the final round a year ago, didn’t wait this time. She birdied her first three holes.

Top-seeded Lepp falls at U.S. Amateur

ARDMORE, Pa. – South Carolina-Aiken junior Dane Burkhart made two long birdie putts Thursday to upset top-seeded James Lepp and advance to the third round of the U.S. Amateur.

Burkhart, the NCAA Division II champion, birdied the 11th hole at Merion Golf Club with an 80-foot putt and hit a 30-footer on the 14th to take the lead. Lepp, a junior at Washington, was the Division I champion.

“This course is getting so difficult,” Burkhart said. “It’s hard to get it close. If you’re going to make any birdies, you’re looking at 20-, 30- or 40-foot putts. Luckily I made a couple of those today.”

Lepp had to rally to win Wednesday’s first-round match against Kyle Reifers on the 19th hole, but couldn’t overcome Burkhart’s consistent play and long putts Thursday.

Cabrera, Derksen, Rumford share lead

NORD-EICHENRIED, Germany – Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen and Australia’s Brett Rumford all shot 7-under 65s Thursday to share the first-round lead at the BMW International Open.

The 13th-ranked Argentine is aiming for a top-10 ranking after a strong year.

“I played very well today – I made every putt,” Cabrera said after the first round of the $2.5 million event. “My ambition is to finish the year in the top 10. To do that, I will have to win another tournament this year, maybe here.”

Thomas Bjorn and Ian Poulter were among a nine-man group at 66, while fellow Ryder Cup player Luke Donald was in a group of 12 at 67.


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