Kuchar looking to break recent PGA Tour luck

DULUTH - Matt Kuchar's bid for better luck on the PGA Tour got off to a nice start on Thursday.

The former Georgia Tech star shot 4-under 68 in the BellSouth Classic's first round, breaking one streak of futility and putting him in good shape to break another tough spell.

Kuchar's score was his first sub-70 round on the PGA Tour in 11 rounds, dating back to a second-round 67 last September at the Valero Texas Open.

Now he can focus on making the cut, something he also hasn't done in a Tour event since last September at the Bell Canadian Open.

His run of missed cuts is currently at six tournaments, but the opening 68 gave him a great shot at making the cut today. So far he has missed the cut in three events this season, most recently at the Honda Classic two weeks ago, when he shot 78 and 76.

The 27-year-old finished 159th on the money list last season at $402,786, which forced him to bounce between the Nationwide and PGA Tours this year.

But his goal remains to earn back a regular spot with the big boys. Kuchar rose to stardom after winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur and finishing 14th at the U.S. Open and 21st at the Masters in 1998 (both as an amateur).

But he hasn't reached a high level of pro success since 2002, when he won the Honda Classic.

"I'm trying to be full-time on the Tour," Kuchar said. "I'm hoping to get in 15 to 20 (tournaments) on the Tour (this year), hoping to make a full year out here, and then trying to go in the off weeks out to the Nationwide just to stay sharp.

"I'm hoping to spend most of my time out here."

Last time for Europeans

With the BellSouth moving to May next year, the field likely won't have nearly as many top foreign players, particularly European golfers. Many of them liked the current April date for the BellSouth because it was good preparation for next week's Masters.

But that won't be the case in May.

"May would be Irish Open time, Irish Open, British Masters and PGA, which is a rough time if you're European," said Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who shot 4-under 68 on Thursday. "If I don't play the Irish Open, I just can't go home."

Getting close with a tree

An errant drive on the ninth hole forced part-time Atlanta resident Billy Andrade to get up close and personal with a tree.

His tee shot sailed left and nestled in the pine straw, just beside a tree. His only shot at hitting it out was to straddle the tree and take a hack to chip it out.

The result was a good, 122-yard shot down the fairway.

"That was the best shot I hit all year," Andrade said to the gallery after punching it down the fairway.

The shot wasn't good enough to save par on the hole because he missed a 20-foot putt. He still finished the day at 2-under 70.

Rough time for Amershadian

Duluth resident Jeff Amershadian, most recently a teaching professional at Berkeley Hills Country Club, got off to a rough start on the par-5, 10th hole. His drive found a bunker in the right rough and traveled just 218 yards.

Amershadian, who hasn't played much while starting a teaching aid company called Consistent Swing, shot 80 on Thursday to finish 143rd out of 144 golfers.

Among other local players, Sugarloaf resident Stewart Cink shot even-par 72, Buford's Tim Weinhart fired a 2-over 74 and Duluth's Scott Dunlap shot 1-over 73.

News and notes

The shot of the day was Gavin Coles' eagle on the par-4 17th, but a close second might have been the tee shot of Kris Cox on the par-4, 13th hole. Cox ripped a 325-yard drive on No. 13 to 4 feet, 7 inches, and then made the putt for eagle....Brett Wetterich's first-round 67 was a major turnaround from his 2005 BellSouth first round, when he shot 81 and withdrew.