May 25, 2006

Chris Smith on a surprise high in Memphis

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - American journeyman Chris Smith put
behind him a miserable start to the year by taking a surprise
two-shot lead at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee on

The 37-year-old from Indiana fired a flawless six-under-par
64 in the opening round at the TPC at Southwind before
expressing amazement over his performance.

"I'm not sure what happened," the big-hitting Smith told
reporters after excelling on a hot and humid day. "I got done,
and (former winner) John Cook or somebody else is playing under
my name."

Smith, who has missed five cuts in eight PGA Tour
appearances this season, birdied four of the first nine holes
to reach the turn in four-under 31.

He picked up further shots at the 16th and 17th to finish
two ahead of compatriot D.A. Points. Fellow Americans Paul
Azinger and Tom Pernice junior were tied for third on 67.

"It's hard to tell by how much money I've made this year,
but I really played pretty well," added Smith, who is chasing a
second PGA Tour title after clinching his maiden victory at the
2002 Buick Classic.

"Today I actually made some putts, which is always fun for
me. It doesn't happen on a real regular basis and my putter
felt great.


"I made some long ones and everything just kind of

Former world number one Nick Price of Zimbabwe, playing his
eighth Tour event of the year, was among a group of six on 68.

St. Jude Classic champion in 1993 and 1998, Price mixed
three birdies with a solitary bogey to share fifth place with
Americans Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Funk, Steve Stricker, Zach
Johnson and Paul Stankowski and Daisuke Maruyama of Japan.

"This is the kind of course I really enjoy, although it's
totally different to the course I won on," the three-times
major champion said after posting his lowest score of the

"It's got a little bit of extra length but the fairways are
groomed, the ball is rolling and these greens are just really,
really good. I'm amazed."

John Cook, who set a tournament record low aggregate of 258
to win the 1996 title, was a further stroke back on 69,
alongside twice champion and world number eight David Toms.

Tim Herron, who ended a seven-year victory drought at last
week's Colonial tournament, opened with a 70 while defending
champion Justin Leonard carded a 72.

American Ryder Cup player Chris DiMarco returned a 73 and
John Daly a 77 to head a list of several big names in early
danger of missing the halfway cut.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles)