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Bryant shares lead at Bay Hill

Bart Bryant already won Jack Nicklaus's tournament. Opening with a 6-under-par 66 yesterday in the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Fla., allowed him to think about adding Arnold Palmer's trophy to his collection.

Bryant surged to the top of a crowded leaderboard with a 3-iron into 12 feet for eagle on the 16th hole and a string of good iron shots for a share of the lead with Dean Wilson.

It was the first time Bryant broke par in the first round this year, a sign that he is finally feeling comfortable after having surgery on his right knee at the end of his stellar 2005 season.

He wasn't alone in either category -- knee surgeries and good starts.

Ernie Els missed four months toward the end of last year because of knee surgery, and his return to the PGA Tour was slowed by tentative play and sloppy starts. He found another gear on a sunny, balmy day at Bay Hill by conquering the par-5 sixth hole with a 3-wood over the water and a bending, 50-foot eagle putt on the sixth.

Els wound up with a 67 and had company. He was joined by former British Open champion Ben Curtis, former Bay Hill winner Chad Campbell, Lucas Glover, and Jason Gore.

Tiger Woods was poised to join them, despite not feeling the least bit comfortable over his tee shots, approaches to the green, or his putting. He was at 4 under until back-to-back bogeys put him at 70.

Despite the fear of 3 1/2-inch rough, conditions were dry and players were able to advance the ball from the thick grass close enough to green to get par or better. It still was tough enough that no one went lower than 66, although 22 players shot in the 60s.

''It looks like 4- and 5-unders are a dime a dozen today. I was fortunate enough to be one of those guys who went a shot lower than the other guys," Bryant said.

LPGA -- Aree Song was 13 years old when she played in her first LPGA tournament, tying for 10th place in the 2000 Nabisco Championship.

So perhaps it's no wonder she is often overlooked in the media frenzy over the new wave of LPGA newcomers such as Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.

''That's kind of cool to be a veteran at 19," Song said. ''My goal is to be the best in the world one day."

Song shot an 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead yesterday over Sarah Lee and Maria Hjorth in the Safeway International in Superstition Mountain, Ariz.

Sixteen golfers are within three shots of the lead.

Annika Sorenstam, the two-time defending champion, is tied for 28th place, five shots back.

Song scored eight birdies on the 6,620-yard Prospector Course, with her best sequence coming on the turn.

On the par-4 ninth hole, Song chipped in from 12 yards out. On the par-4 10th, she rolled in a 20-foot downhill putt for another birdie.

Lee, after bogeying her first two holes, scored a pair of birdies and nailed a 6-iron for a hole-in-one on the 159-yard par-3 17th hole.

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