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First round at Colonial a breeze for Cink

Stewart Cink was swinging and thinking well during the first round of the Colonial. Combined with an uncharacteristic light breeze on a pristine course, the result was predictable.

''It almost feels like it's too easy to play," Cink said after shooting 6-under-par 64 yesterday in Fort Worth.

Cink wasn't alone. Only a stroke back at 65 were long-hitting Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Arron Oberholser, Charley Hoffman, and Stephen Ames, who briefly got to 7 under before running into trouble. Defending champion Kenny Perry was among a group of eight players at 66.

Of the 113 players, 47 were under par and another 19 shot 70.

Cink began his bogey-free round with three straight birdies and was already 5 under through eight holes. He then had a 10-foot birdie putt at the 408-yard No. 9 that lipped the cup, the same thing that happened on his 19-footer at the 433-yard closing hole.

''I gave myself a lot of chances for birdies. With no wind to speak of out there, club selection wasn't that challenging," Cink said. ''If you're swinging well and thinking well, you will get a lot of shots close. And I did. I wish I could bottle this feeling."

The old-style Colonial course is a 7,054-yard layout virtually unchanged since it first hosted this tournament 60 years ago.

Unlike so many PGA Tour courses where golfers hit most tee shots as far as they can, many long hitters avoid Hogan's Alley. Tiger Woods played here only once, and John Daly missed the cut three times before he opened with an 80 in 1999, his last appearance, and withdrew.

That didn't faze Watson, who leads the Tour with a 320-yard driving average.

''I hit it straight today. It could go against me or it will work wonders for me this week," Watson said. ''Some holes are really tight. There are a couple of them that open up the farther you hit it."

Watson used his driver nine times, including a 361-yard drive on his second hole, the 611-yard No. 11. He hadn't swung that club on Colonial's compact driving range because he ''didn't want to kill anybody on the other side."

After making the turn still even, Watson had a 391-yard tee shot at the only other par 5, the 563-yard first hole. That was the first of five birdies to end his round.

''If I was to win one, this one would be the one to win just because they say long hitters can't play around here," said Watson, who was 21st on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. ''It would be more fun for me just for that reason."

Perry made it back from knee surgery to defend his title at the Colonial, where he won by wide margins twice in the past three years at 19 under. He skipped nine tournaments before returning last week to make the cut and tie for 34th at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Cink opened with a two-putt birdie from 31 feet and hit his approach at No. 2 to less than 3 feet. He also rolled in a 27-foot birdie at No. 3, and a 21-footer at No. 6.

LPGA -- Natalie Gulbis and Beth Bauer, who battled it out for LPGA Rookie of the Year honors in 2002, and Hee-Won Han were tied for the first-round lead at the Sybase Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., with 3-under 68s.

The golfers attracting the most attention coming into the 72-hole event at the 6,227-yard Wykagyl Country Club course were both four shots behind the leaders.

Paula Creamer, who won this tournament last year four days before her high school graduation, and Annika Sorenstam, who missed the cut last week for the first time since 2002, had 72s.

Gulbis, who is ninth on this year's money list after finishing sixth in 2005, eagled the par-4 eighth with a 100-yard sand wedge and had four birdies -- including a chip-in from 60 feet -- on the back nine in her 68.

''When I holed that wedge, it changed my momentum and I played well on the back nine," said Gulbis, who beat out Bauer for the rookie award. Bauer's only bogey came on the par-3 16th and she was one of only two players to get to 4 under in the morning round when the wind seemed to cause quite a few problems on the tree-lined course.

Han, the 2003 Sybase champion, missed only one fairway in her round and her lone bogey was on the par-3 16th.

Creamer ended her round on a high note, while Sorenstam bogeyed two of her last three holes.

Creamer was 18 when she won this tournament last year, the youngest winner ever of a multiround LPGA event. She also won the Evian Masters last year.

Double bogeys on Nos. 4 and 11 had Creamer at 5 over, but a 9-iron out of the rough on No. 12 led to the first of four birdies in her final seven holes.

Creamer closed with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

Sorenstam, who won this tournament in 1998 and 2000, started on No. 10, and birdies on Nos. 13 and 15 had her 2 under. Three bogeys in a seven-hole span left her 1 over.

European -- In Maynooth, Ireland, Iain Pyman shot a 2-under 70 to take the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Irish Open, when wind and rain kept half the field from finishing 18 holes.

Spain's Ignacio Garrido was atop the leaderboard at 3 under through six, while Ireland's David Higgins and Englishmen Andrew Marshall and Tom Whitehouse all were at 2 under not having finished their first nine.

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