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Verplank fires desert scorcher

Scott Verplank, never known for distance off the tee, had no problem with the lengthened course at the FBR Open at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Verplank solved the TPC of Scottsdale's puzzles with an 8-under 63 yesterday to lead the former Phoenix Open by one stroke over late-charging Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, four days removed from his victory at the Bob Hope, had six of his eight birdies after the turn and carded a 64.

"It was a fun day," Mickelson said. "It didn't look like it was going to be anything special -- it just looked like it was going to be a solid, few-under-par round, and then something kind of clicked there. I don't know what it was."

Verplank breezed through an eight-birdie, mistake-free round on a desert course many thought favored long hitters.

"I found the feel for the greens to make some putts," Verplank said. "The Bob Hope was my first tournament since [November], and I really struggled with my putting. I made a couple of nice ones early today, and I kind of got in a rhythm."

Jonathan Kaye shot 65, with Steve Flesch, Scott McCarron, Rod Pampling, Brenden Pappas, Chris Riley, and Jeff Sluman at 66.

The revamped layout proved tricky for some, notably defending champion Vijay Singh, who was in a cluster at 71 with Tom Lehman and John Daly.

Twenty-five players, including Mike Weir at 6-under after 17 holes, were unable to finish because of darkness.

European -- Thomas Bjorn shot an 8-under 64, giving him a one-stroke lead over Nick Faldo after the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok. Ian Poulter was at 66, along with Scott Gardiner, Jarrod Moseley, and Edward Loar.

British Open champion Ben Curtis was four shots back at 68. Defending champion Ernie Els was at 70, as was PGA champ Shaun Micheel.

Ian Woosnam is at 72 and Colin Montgomerie at 73.

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