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Trio Shares Lead; Woods Attracts Big Crowds

September 13, 1996

COAL VALLEY, Ill. (AP) _ Tiger Woods drew the people. Larry Nelson, Joey Gullion and Charlie Rymer were content with birdies.

Nelson, Gullion and Rymer shot 5-under 65s on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Quad City Classic. Denis Watson and Ed Fiori opened with 66s on the Oakwood Golf Club course.

Woods, making his third start as a pro, was four back after a 69.

``When you’re not shooting well, it’s nice to be under par,″ the three-time U.S. Amateur champion said. ``I didn’t play very well. It was just a day when my timing was off.″

Rymer had seven birdies and two bogeys. He also had a chance for an eagle on the par-4 seventh hole.

``I saw the pork chop sign back of the green and said to myself, `I’m going to get me a pork chop sandwich if I make this eagle putt,‴ said Rymer, one of the PGA Tour’s biggest players at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds.

He settled for a birdie and skipped the sandwich.

Nelson made four birdies in a row, starting and finishing by holing 20-foot putts.

``I can’t remember the last time I made four straight birdies,″ he said.

Nelson, who has 10 victories in 23 years on the tour, has returned after a month off to be with his father while he battled a serious heart disease.

``It’s almost sense of relief to be out here. Now my father is getting better. Being home for a month under this type of situation. ... This is like a vacation,″ said Nelson, who turned 49 on Tuesday.

With six birdies and a bogey, Gullion found himself in an unfamiliar position.

``It’s the first time I’ve seen my name as No. 1,″ he said. ``It felt good, seeing my name at the top of the scoreboard.″

Crowds estimated at more than 2,500 followed Woods, limiting the viewing for many.

``I never had this much trouble seeing at the Masters,″ said one spectator.

Playing in the second to the last threesome of the day, Woods had three birdies and two bogeys. As dusk was falling on an overcast evening, he hit a bunker and bogeyed No. 17, then he barely missed a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

Woods’ caddy, Mike McGowan, said he understands the interest in the former Stanford star.

``I like to watch him play golf, too,″ he said.

But Rymer said he is a bit jealous of Woods’ popularity.

``The bad thing is he’s such a nice guy. If he was a weasel, you could hate him,″ Rymer said.

Woods and others who played in the afternoon, including Rymer and Gullion, faced more difficult conditions with brisker winds and cooler temperatures than Nelson and others playing in the morning.

``It was a tricky wind,″ Rymer said. ``You know it’s blowing, but you don’t know which direction.″

The tournament, known for its low scores and bad weather, was shortened to 54 holes last year when the first day was rained out. Frost delayed the start of the second round.

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