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Gamez leads at Capital Open

POTOMAC, Md., June 5 (UPI) -- A day after losing a playoff in qualifying for next week's U.S. Open, Robert Gamez carded a 5-under-par 66 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead over Rich Beem and Notah Begay III at the Capital Open.

Gamez failed to qualify for the second major of the season for the second consecutive year, missing by a stroke at nearby Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.

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After lipping out a 10-foot putt that would have gotten him into the tournament, Gamez bogeyed the second hole of a playoff with Bob Burns, Ian Leggatt, Brian Gay and Steven Alker.

"I was a little upset last night, a little disappointed," Gamez said. "It was tough to get out of bed."

Taking advantage of lift, clean and place on a soggy TPC at Avenel, Gamez rebounded with a round that included seven birdies and two bogeys. Among his birdies were two putts of 20 feet and another from 15.

"It was a good start for the week," said Gamez, who is winless since his rookie year of 1990. "And I'm looking forward to the rest of the week."

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So is Beem, the surprise star of the PGA Tour in 2002 who has missed the cut in eight of 14 starts this season and has yet to finish better than 15th. Last year, he won the International and PGA Championship in consecutive starts.

"I putted better today," Beem said of his turnaround. "I made a few long putts and I made a few of the short putts that I expect to make."

The only player on tour that putts both righthanded and lefthanded, Begay shot the first bogey-free round of the week to get within a stroke of Gamez. He played later in the day, when the wind wreaked havoc.

"The conditions are extremely unpredictable," he said. "And with the swirling winds and the trees, it really makes club selection very confusing."

A few players with experience playing in the wind were two strokes back at 68, including former British Open champion Paul Lawrie and Niclas Fasth of Sweden.

Also carding 68s were Hal Sutton, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, Glen Hnatiuk, Patrick Sheehan and Tom Gillis.

Starting on the back nine, Gamez opened with four birdies in his first six holes, including three in a row beginning at the 13th. He finished the run with a 20-foot putt at the 15th.

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Gamez credited an aggressive approach and improved putting stroke for his solid round.

"That's the main thing, just the aggressiveness, putted better, my confidence came back," he said. "And you play out here with confidence and you're going to do pretty well."

After a string of six straight pars, Gamez bogeyed the fourth hole. He also bogeyed the eighth but had birdies at Nos. 5, 7 and 9, the last of which gave him sole possession of the lead.

"I played great," he said. "I played a lot better than my score shows. I left about three or four shots out there today, and I'm a little disappointed about that, especially after not qualifying for the Open yesterday."

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