ATLANTA, April 3 (UPI) -- With rock-hard greens making birdies difficult to find, Chris DiMarco used his unique putting approach to earn a one-stroke lead Thursday at the BellSouth Classic.
DiMarco had six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 67, using the claw putting grip that helped revitalize his career. He has been one of the best putters on tour since adopting the style, ranking 10th this year.
"I feel like I'm right up there with the best putters in the world and it's nice," he said. "I think a lot of the reason is because I'm not trying a new style. I putt the way I putt."
The way he putts came in handy Thursday at Sugarloaf, which has been compared to Augusta National for its hard, fast greens that normally allow the cream to rise to the top.
"Yeah, it surely does," said DiMarco, who is ranked 12th in the world. "The faster, the better for me."
Defending champion Retief Goosen headed a group tied for second at 4-under 68.
"There won't be anybody running away with it," said Goosen, who is seventh in the world rankings. "It keeps the field bunched up and the better players go to the top."
Billy Andrade, Bob Burns, rookie Aaron Barber and journeyman Brad Lardon all shot 68. Fred Couples, Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Janzen and Paul Azinger were among those shooting a 69. Englishman John Morgan also carded a 69, but he had a share of the lead before closing with a double-bogey at the ninth hole.
Only 35 of the 137 players to tee off broke par. Phil Mickelson was not among them. The world's fourth-ranked golfer settled for a 73.