March 9, 2006

Toms in four-way tie for Honda lead

MIAMI (Reuters) - American David Toms maintained his
red-hot start to the year with a five-under-par 67 in the Honda
Classic first round at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Thursday.

Winner of the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, Toms reeled
off five successive birdies on his second nine to hold a share
of the lead with Swede Mathias Gronberg, Japan's Ryuji Imada
and Australian Geoff Ogilvy.

Americans Billy Mayfair, Brian Gay, Jason Schultz and Jeff
Gove were tied for fifth on 68 with compatriots John Cook,
Shaun Micheel and Dudley Hart, plus Australia's Scott Hend, a
further stroke back in joint ninth.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who won last year's title in
a playoff with Vijay Singh and Joe Ogilvie, opened his defense
with a 71 at The Country Club at Mirasol.

Toms, who shared second place behind Tiger Woods at the
Doral Championship in Miami on Sunday, recovered from a
stumbling start after teeing off on the par-four 10th.

The 34-year-old from Louisiana sandwiched bogeys at 10 and
13 around a birdie at the 12th.

Although he picked up two more shots on 15 and 16, he also
dropped a stroke on 18 to reach the turn in level-par 36.


The world number eight, who has finished no worse than 19th
in five PGA Tour appearances this season, then went into
overdrive, a spectacular birdie run from the par-four second
lifting him to the top of the leaderboard.

Gronberg, who has missed the cut in three of his four tour
starts this season, birdied four of the first eight holes
before losing a little momentum after the turn.

The Swede, a late addition to the field after Britain's
Nick Faldo withdrew on Wednesday because of a family illness,
picked up further shots on 12 and 17, along with a bogey-five
at the 16th.

Among the other big names in the 11th tour event of the
year, twice runner-up Davis Love III opened with a 70 while
British Ryder Cup player Luke Donald and 1993 winner Fred
Couples signed for 72s.

Big-hitting American John Daly returned a 76 and countryman
Todd Hamilton, Honda Classic and British Open champion in 2004,
battled to a 78.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles)