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O’MEARA, HICKMAN SHARE FIRST-ROUND CLASSIC LEAD

SHARE O’MEARA, HICKMAN SHARE FIRST-ROUND CLASSIC LEAD

Mark O'Meara beat the heat and his mid-season blues with a 7-under-par 64, and shared the first-round lead with late-finishing Greg Hickman after Thursday's opening round of the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic.

"I certainly can't say that my confidence was riding very high when I teed off today," said O'Meara, who missed the cut in two of his last three events and tied for 66th in the other.O'Meara had nine birdies and two bogeys on Kingsmill Golf Club's steamy layout along the James River. Then Hickman, a rookie playing in the next-to-last group, put together seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle for a 64.

Their closest pursuers were Lanny Wadkins and Brian Claar, both with 65s.

Greg Norman, who leads the 1990 money list with $832,709, opened with a 5-under 66 and was joined at that figure by Larry Mize, Larry Rinker, Donnie Hammond, Russ Cochran and Jim Gallagher Jr.

A large group at 67 included Curtis Strange, who lives at Kingsmill, and Hal Sutton, whose round included a hole-in-one on the 177-yard 17th hole.

On a humid day when the temperature rose well into the 90s and there was virtually no wind, many of the golfers found Kingsmill played shorter than its 6,790 yards.

"The greens look like they pumped a lot of water into them last night, and it becomes just like a birdie shootout," Norman said. "It's a putting competition is all it is."

O'Meara, Claar, Rinker and Norman were among those who began play in the morning before the temperature soared.

"I was very pleased to get off early today," a dripping wet O'Meara said after his round. "You really noticed the heat start kicking in after about seven or eight holes. Then the whole back side it was really sweltering."

O'Meara, who finished third in the season-opening Tournament of Champions and got career victory No. 5 at Pebble Beach four weeks later, said he's unsure why he starts strong every year and tails off toward the middle of the season.