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Calcavecchia leads in Greensboro

  |   April 25, 2002 at 6:55 PM
GREENSBORO, N.C., April 25 (UPI) -- Mark Calcavecchia rolled in five straight birdies on the back nine Thursday en route to a bogey-free, 7-under-par 65 and a one-stroke lead over Paul Stankowski after the first round of the Greater Greensboro Classic.

Slowed by a myriad of foot problems, Calcavecchia had three "miraculous" pars before making birdies from Nos. 12-17 during his early round at Forest Oaks Country Club.

"That's the way I play sometimes," said Calcavecchia, who had just 11 putts over his last 11 holes. "I never know when five in a row are coming. It doesn't happen very often, but it's fun when it does."

Golf has been especially fun for Calcavecchia since the flesh on the bottom of his foot returned.

Calcavecchia has been suffering from plantar fasciitis on his left heel. He received treatment two weeks ago at The Masters, but when he removed the tape from the bottom of his foot, he ripped off "a chunk of flesh."

"It was gross," said Calcavecchia, whose 30 on the back nine Sunday at Hilton Head moved him from 49th to 10th. "And not to mention, I couldn't even walk on it, let alone I couldn't get off my right side."

Because he was favoring the bottom of his foot, Calcavecchia added shin and knee problems to ailments he has in his heel and ankle. The heel still is his biggest concern, but it is improving.

"My heel is actually getting better, which is good," he said. "It's not killing me at the end of each day like it has been, so hopefully it will just gradually work itself out."

Stankowski was a stroke back after shooting a 66, which included just four pars. He had four bogeys and 10 birdies -- four straight to start the back nine.

"It was one of those days, as you can tell by the card," said Stankowski, who missed the cut last week and has not been in the top 10 this season. "I was all over the map -- some good, some bad, some ugly -- but it worked out all right."

It did not work out for defending champion Scott Hoch, who withdrew before the start of the round because of complications from laser eye surgery.

The 46-year-old Hoch has had problems since having surgery in January 2001. He had a third laser procedure on Monday and complained of distorted vision prior to his scheduled tee time Thursday.

"The last two weeks, I've played seeing double out of my right eye, and I wasn't going to do that here," he said.

Hoch won last year's event after complaining that the rough around the 7,062-yard layout was too short. It has returned this year and Calcavecchia knows who to thank.

"I remember him (complaining) about the lack of rough last year," Calcavecchia said of his Ryder Cup teammate. "We all have Scott to thank for this U.S. Open-type stuff we're hacking out of this week."

It did not bother a lot of players, including Robert Gamez, Chad Campbell, Lee Porter and Jim Gallagher Jr. The four were tied at 67.

Rocco Mediate, who at No. 17 is the highest-ranked player in the field, was one of six players tied for seventh at 68.

At the par-5 ninth hole, Calcavecchia hooked his tee shot under a rock in a ditch left of the fairway. He took a penalty, found the fairway and put his fourth shot within three feet before tapping in for par.

"I was looking at seven there," said Calcavecchia, who has 10 PGA Tour titles. "So that was a bonus."

At the par-4 10th, Calcavecchia went from rough to bunker, but he blasted within eight feet and made the putt.

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