Sutherland leads after opening round of AT&T Classic

May 18, 2007 - 12:11 AM DULUTH, Georgia (Ticker) -- Kevin Sutherland fired a 7-under-par 65 Thursday to secure a two-shot lead after one round of the $5.4 million AT&T Classic.

The 42-year-old recorded eight birdies at the TPC Sugarloaf. His only flaw of the round was a bogey on the par-4 fifth hole of the 7,343-yard layout.

Stephen Marino, Tommy Armour III, Ryuji Imada, Bob May and Craig Kanada are tied for second place at 67. Four players are tied at 4-under.

Sutherland has just one top-10 finish in 12 events this season and recorded his lone PGA Tour win five years ago in the Accenture Match Play Championships.

"I hit the ball pretty well," Sutherland said. "Actually, I hit the ball very well. I was very pleased with the way I hit it. You're not going to shoot 65 very often, so it was a lot of fun."

A native of California, Sutherland birdied all four of the course's par-5 holes.

"The course is in great shape and the weather is perfect," Sutherland said. "The ball is really running down these fairways, so you can get to the par-5s and I took advantage of all four of them today."

The highlight of Sutherland's round was chipping in for a birdie from the bunker at the par-3 16th hole.

"Obviously, it was a nice bonus," Sutherland said. "I hit a pretty good shot in there and I just came up a half a club short. I hit an 8-iron and it caught the lip of the bunker and rolled back in. It was a fairly easy bunker shot, but to hole it was a bonus. That kind of got me going.

"All of a sudden I birdied 17, hit a wedge in to about five feet and knocked it on the green in two on 18 and two-putt for birdie there."

Two-time defending champion Phil Mickelson is not entered in this event after winning the The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday. Other high-profile players not in the field are world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

Imada started poorly as he went to 2-over after a double-bogey on the par-4 fifth. However, the 29-year-old birdied six of the next eight holes to surge to 4-under. After a bogey on the 16th, the native of Japan completed his round with an eagle on the par-5 18th.

"After the double on five, I knew I had to make birdies," Imada said. "But I knew there were three par-5s that were reachable and once I got to six and made birdie, I started feeling better and my shots showed it. Just a few lucky birdies here and there, but all-in-all, I played really good from six on."

Marino's best tour finish came in February when he was eighth at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. On Thursday, he had seven birdies but was hindered by bogeys on the fifth and 12th holes.

Armour III carded four of his six birdies on the back nine. The 47-year-old has not a won a PGA Tour event since capturing the Valero Texas Open in 2003.

Playing in just his third event of the year, May birdied five holes and went without a bogey. Kanada, who has finished no better than 10th in 13 tour events this year, did the same.

Zach Johnson, who has enjoyed success in this event, shot a 71. Johnson won here in 2004 for his first PGA title and finished second last year, albeit by a staggering 13 shots behind Mickelson. But Johnson's biggest win in the Peach State came last month in The Masters at Augusta, where he posted a two-stroke victory over Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.

The winner will receive $954,000.

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