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Brad Elder leads Southern Farm Classic

Oct. 31, 2002 at 8:33 PM   |   Comments

MADISON, Miss., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Kirk Triplett donned a Halloween mask to play the 18th hole Thursday, but could only get within a stroke of Brad Elder, who fired a 7-under-par 65 to grab the lead after the opening round of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.

After birdying the final hole to cap a bogey-free 66, Triplett joined seven others in a tie for second.

"I'm going to have some fun, but I'm still here to win the golf tournament," said Triplett, whose lone PGA Tour victory came at the 2000 Nissan Open. "Some guys are probably going, `What an idiot and what is he going to do next?' Last year, I dressed up as Tiger Woods, so I would have had a hard time topping that."

Elder may have a hard time topping his first-round success. Winless in three years on the PGA Tour, the University of Texas product has missed the cut in 15 of 25 starts this season and has finished no better than a tie for 13th. And that came in his first tournament of the year.

"I just tried to hang in there and stay positive," he said. "I've been working hard on changing my swing the past six months to do what I did today, which was hit the ball very well."

Among those tied for second were Tommy Tolles, Jonathan Kaye and Jonathan Byrd, who recorded his first PGA Tour victory four days ago at the Buick Challenge.

Like many golfers at this final full-field event of the year, Elder needs a win to keep his PGA Tour card. Just 173rd on the money list, he could use the $468,000 first prize to soar into the top 125 and retain his playing privileges for 2003.

"I would have been happy with 6-under, especially after the way I started," he said. "I just wanted not to quit and hang in there."

Elder followed back-to-back bogeys at the second and third holes with three straight birdies, making a 20-footer from off the green at the 522-yard fifth. He had another streak of three birdies on the back side, then rolled in a 25-footer at No. 14 and a 15-footer at No. 16 to get to 6-under.

At the 532-yard closing hole, Elder lobbed a wedge within six feet to grab sole possession of the lead.

"It's always important to get one more birdie," he said.

David Frost of South Africa got off to a slow start as he tries to hold onto the 125th spot on the money list, carding an even-par 72 to tie for 74th.

Japan's Kaname Yokoo, who is nearly $20,000 behind Frost, shot a 71.

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