- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

Before Charles Howell III torched the TPC at Avenel’s front nine, yesterday belonged to Rich Beem.

The tournament’s 1999 champion, who also won the 2002 PGA Championship, shot a 30 on the front nine en route to a 7-under 64. Beem finished the day tied with Olin Browne for second.

“It was probably the most fun round of golf I’d had in a long time,” Beem said.

Hearing Beem talk about fun on the golf course has been a rarity. He has struggled this year, ranking 257th on the world money list and finishing in the top 40 just five times. But more than that, Beem pointed to a major championship letdown as the reason he has lost his edge.

“People don’t remember the victory here so much or me and Steve Lowery battling at the International,” Beem said. “They remember the PGA. It’s like, what do you do now? Do you sit and enjoy it? Do you go away? Do you keep playing? What do you do?

“That is the one thing I didn’t do. I didn’t enjoy it; I didn’t sit there and go, ‘Man, this is an unbelievably great accomplishment.’”

Yesterday Beem was clearly enjoying himself. The Texas native, who said at the 2002 PGA that he would “probably throw up” if he won, displayed his trademark humor after his round, joking that Avenel should be renamed the “TPC Beemer.”

A pair of pro debuts

Bill Haas and Matt Hendrix both turned pro for this week’s tournament, and Haas made three birdies on the back nine en route to a 2-under 69. Hendrix didn’t fare as well, hitting into a bunker and bogeying his first hole. Hendrix recorded two three-putts in a round of 72.

Big names in middle

Fred Funk and John Daly, playing with Brad Faxon in the day’s marquee group, shot 69 and 70, respectively. The local favorite and the loose cannon commanded the biggest galleries throughout the afternoon but never made a serious run at the leader board. Funk is tied for 33rd and Daly for 53rd.

“A lot of the greens in the afternoon were bouncing a little bit, and it was tough to make some putts,” Daly said. “It’s nice. I haven’t played in a couple weeks. It could have been a lot lower, but I’m pretty happy.”

Funk, a Takoma Park native, played with his trademark efficiency, hitting 12 of 14 fairways in regulation. He made birdies on the sixth and 10th holes.

“I played better than I scored today,” Funk said. “If I can get out there tomorrow morning when there are a few less footprints, I might be able to get the putter going.”

Funk, Daly and Faxon begin on the 10th tee at 7:30 a.m. today.

Monday qualifier fades

Charley Hoffman, who qualified in a five-man, two-hole playoff in Clarksburg, Va., on Monday, was 6 under par after 16 holes and had designs on tying Beem for the early lead. But the 27-year-old double-bogeyed the last two holes, hitting into the water on 17 and chipping his third shot into a bunker on 18 to finish with a 2-under 69.

“You can [hit into the water] on 17, but 18’s uncalled for,” Hoffman said. “I hit in the bunker, chunked it out, and missed a 4-footer. It goes from a pretty good day to a pretty disappointing day.”

This is Hoffman’s first PGA Tour event of the year. He has made one cut, finishing 76th at the 1996 Buick Invitational.

Armour, Kuchar withdraw

Tommy Armour III and Matt Kuchar were among eight players who withdrew before play started.

Additionally, Pat Perez withdrew with an elbow injury after shooting 74, and Lee Janzen called it quits after shooting 7 over in the first eight holes and finishing with a 10-over 81 — worst score of the day.

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