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Haas & Hoffman Off to Fast Starts in Houston


Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman each fired 7-under 65s to take the opening-round lead in the Shell Houston Open. The $6.4 million PGA Tour event - the final tune-up before next week's Masters - got underway Thursday at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas.

Both players began their days on the 10th tee. Haas carded six birdies, an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole (his 13th) and a bogey, while Hoffman posted seven birdies for a flawless round.

Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar, J. B. Holmes, Jim Renner and Erik Compton all got off to solid starts with 6-under 66s. Another 10 players opened with 67s.

Phil Mickelson, who was paired with Bradley and Webb Simpson, played and played well. Mickelson was considering pulling out of the tournament due to a pulled oblique muscle in his right side. The injury caused him to withdraw after completing 10 holes in the third round of last week's Valero Texas Open.

But "Lefty" got around with a four-birdie 68 - the same score as Simpson.

"It was a really fun day playing with Phil and Webb," Bradley said. "Bogey-free for our whole group - pretty amazing. Phil said it's never happened in his career. Pretty cool. We all played very well. I got off to a good start and made a few birdies coming in . . . hit a lot of greens. And the three is missed I got up and down."

Holmes was also happy. "It was a great start," he said. "I played pretty solid all day. I putted well and hit a bunch of greens, so my misses were pretty much in the right spot. I've been waiting for it to click together. I've been a little disappointed with some of my finishes considering how I feel like I've played."

Mickelson was pleased with how his round went. "I felt great today," he told Golf Channel. "I didn't feel any pain or discomfort and didn't even think about it. I'm surprised because I was worried when it happened (before) the Masters, but it healed a lot quicker (than expected)."

The field features 23 of the top 50 players in the world, and 46 who've qualified for the Masters.

No. 3 Henrik Stenson of Sweden opened with a 71 and No. 7 Rory McIlroy shot a 70. No. 2 Adam Scott, the defending Masters champion, is not playing this week. And No. 1 Tiger Woods is recovering from back surgery performed on Monday. The four-time green jacket winner is out for the Masters.

Defending champion D.A. Points posted a 71.

Not so fortunate was 10th-ranked Dustin Johnson. The lanky South Carolinian had an outing to forget, an 8-over 80. His four birdies didn't offset two bogeys, three doubles and a quadruple-bogey on the par-4 sixth hole. His 7-over 43 on the front side was his worst nine holes ever as a Tour player.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.