Roberts races ahead in Western Open first round

LEMONT (Illinois): PGA Tour veteran Loren Roberts, who turned 49 last month, hit a bogey-free, seven-under-par 64 to grab the lead after the first round of the Western Open on Thursday. 

Australia's Robert Allenby, the winner here in 2000, was in second place on 65, two strokes ahead of British Open champion Ben Curtis, Chad Campbell, JL Lewis, Jonathan Byrd, Robert Gamez, Australia's Mark Hensby and Stephen Ames of Canada. 

Among a large group of players on three-under 68 were former US Open champion Scott Simpson, South Korea's KJ Choi and Australian Geoff Ogilvy. World number one Tiger Woods returned a one-under 70 at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club. 

Woods had an up-and down round, carding five birdies, one double bogey and two bogeys. He was tied for 36th place, as was world number five Davis Love III. 

Fiji's Vijay Singh, the world number three, opened with a 72. 

Roberts, regarded as one of the top putters on tour, was again delighted with his work on the greens. “I didn't hit anything real close to the hole but I was very good in the 12 to 15 to 18-foot range with the putter today,” he told reporters. 

“I made several of those, including a couple for pars in probably about that 10 to 12-foot range, which really kept the round going.” 

STRAFFAN (Ireland): Briton Paul Broadhurst, Dutchman Maarten Lafeber and Australia's Nick O'Hern shot five-under-par 67s to share the European Open lead after Thursday's first round. 

Former Ryder Cup player Broadhurst, without a win since 1995, and Lafeber, who had his maiden victory last year in the Dutch Open, built on their success earlier this week when the pair qualified for the British Open. 

O'Hern, who has finished fourth, third and second in his last three European Tour events, is lying second of those not already exempt on the British Open mini order of merit that closes on Sunday night. The left-hander can get to Royal Troon in one fell-swoop if he improves his finishing sequence. 

The top trio are two shots are ahead of a group which includes US Open champion Retief Goosen. 

The Arnold Palmer-designed Smurfit course, being used for the first time, was considered tough enough in windy conditions to need reducing by nearly 100 yards because it was felt that some players would not be able to reach fairways off the tee. – Agencies 

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