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Leaderboard crowded in Vegas

Will MacKenzie, among five tied for the lead at the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, is trying to avoid qualifying school.

Associated Press

Will MacKenzie, among five tied for the lead at the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, is trying to avoid qualifying school.

LAS VEGAS — Robert Garrigus, Will MacKenzie, Michael Letzig, John Senden and rookie Cameron Tringale shot 7-under 64s Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the fourth of five PGA Tour fall series events.

George McNeill, Nicholas Thompson, Ryan Palmer, Vaughn Taylor and Martin Flores opened with 65s, and John Daly and Davis Love topped a group at 66.

Hunter Mahan shot 67 in his first round since the Ryder Cup, and U.S. teammate Rickie Fowler had 68.

Of the leaders, only Senden (77th on the money list) has a secure tour card for 2011. Tringale is a qualifying-school graduate who has made only four cuts all year. Letzig and MacKenzie are outside the top 125 on the money list, the cutoff point for 2011 tour cards. Garrigus, the tour's longest hitter, is 123rd on the money list.

MacKenzie is trying to avoid Q-school after entering the week ranked 146th on the money list. His exemption for winning the 2008 Viking Classic runs out at the end of this year, and he knows he is under the gun.

"A tie for 40th don't do anything for me at all. I got to have a big finish," MacKenzie said. "I got to have two good finishes or either one fantastic one.

"So, you know, I'm going to try to just make as many birdies as possible. If I have to go to Q-school, I'll go to Q-school."

Win or lose, MacKenzie appears to be in good shape to at least finish between 126 and 150 on the money list, which would ensure around 20 tour starts in 2011. And he is determined to avoid another slow start like he had this year, when he put himself in an early hole by missing his first two cuts.

"No matter what, next year I'm going to start off stronger," MacKenzie told PGATour.com. "I'm getting tired of coming down to the wire and having to play real well."

MacKenzie has usually played well in the fall. He tied for sixth last week — his first top 10 of the year — and his 64 Thursday likely means he will avoid missing the cut, something that happened here last year.

"Guys are going to shoot so low out here. Any day you can get it going, keep it going out here, you need to, because you're going to have a day you're going to shoot even to 2 under, even if you're playing well," MacKenzie said.

Daly knows this is probably his last shot at gaining back the tour card he lost after the 2006 season. "I need a Rocco week," said Daly, referring to Rocco Mediate, who won the Frys.com Open last week to secure his tour card for the next two years. "I just got to keep grinding. This is probably my last tournament this year. Hopefully something good can happen."

European: Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, and Ricardo Gonzalez shot 7-under 64s to tie for the first-round lead at the Castello Masters in Castellon, Spain, and Sergio Garcia had 71 in his return from a two-month break.

Monty hurt in crash: Colin Montgomerie bruised his left side in a four-vehicle crash in Scotland and said he was lucky to escape with only minor injuries. He was driving from his home in Dunning to see his father in Glasgow, authorities said. Montgomerie, 47, said a van slammed into his car, and his car was struck by a truck and a car. He said he was pulled from his car by other drivers. No one was hospitalized. Montgomerie's management company, IMG, said he was treated at roadside by ambulance personnel.

Leaderboard crowded in Vegas 10/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 10:06pm]
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