- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

From combined dispatches

PALM HARBOR, Fla. | After a late start to the year, Jim Furyk might be getting up to speed.

Furyk made two long birdie putts and was equally thrilled with a 10-foot par save on his final hole Thursday, which gave him a 6-under 65 in the Transitions Championship. It was the first time he has held the outright lead since his last PGA Tour victory 20 months ago.

“Something I can try to build on,” Furyk said.

Stephen Ames was one shot behind after a 66 on a Copperhead Course that was demanding as ever but one he enjoys far more than the Blue Monster last week at Doral that favors the big hitters.

The group at 67 included Kenny Perry, who sandwiched birdies on the tough 16th and 18th holes around his only bogey on the round. The 48-year-old Perry is playing his eighth event of the year and is worn out. Innisbrook is not exactly a working vacation.

“It’s tough out there. It’s U.S. Open conditions,” Perry said. “There’s no breather holes out there.”

Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan making his second PGA Tour start, birdied his opening two holes but never got any lower and settled for a 69, leaving him in much better shape than at Riviera, where he missed the cut.

I was more relaxed compared with my first event,” he said. “The key was the first hole.”

Furyk took a five-week break to start the year. Having to failed to win last season - only the third time in the last 14 years he has gone an entire PGA Tour season without winning - he decided not to start until Pebble Beach. His scores have improved each week, and Furyk really hit his stride last week at Doral with four rounds in the 60s to finish third.”

Haeggman pulls into tie

PORTO SANTO, Madeira Islands | Sweden’s Joakim Haeggman had five birdies in a six-hole stretch and finished with a 5-under 66 for a share of the first-round lead with Ireland’s Damien McGrane in the Madeira Islands Open.

The 39-year-old Haeggman, winless on the European tour since 2004, played the front nine in even par, then birdied Nos. 10 and 12-15 on the Seve Ballesteros-designed Porto Santo Golfe course that features 500-foot seaside cliffs. England’s Andrew Butterfield, Argentina’s Estanislao Goya and Spain’s Carl Suneson opened with 68s.

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