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RED-HOT PRICE FIRES 64 TO LEAD WESTERN OPEN

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Nick Price's "borrowed" putter is borrowed no more.

"It's mine now," Price said after a Zebra putter that once belonged to good friend Denis Watson helped him to an 8-under-par 64 and the first-round lead Thursday at the Western Open.It's the same putter Price used last week in scoring his second victory of the season at the Greater Hartford Open.

"I putted very well with it last week," the reigning PGA champion said. "I'm a bit more confident with it, and I'm very comfortable."

And a large part of the comfort, he said, comes from the resolution of a controversy that has troubled him since before the U.S. Open.

It involved the use of his old putter after he'd signed a contract with a rival club manufacturer, which also makes the Zebra putter.

The problem arose after advertisements were published indicating Price was still using the old putter.

He had to switch to the Zebra, and had trouble finding one that felt comfortable until he borrowed one from Watson, like Price a former Zimbabwean now living in Orlando, Fla.

This one works for him. He's happy. The manufacturer is happy.

"It's a huge burden off my mind," said Price, who has won six times around the world in the last 12 months. "After everything that has happened the last few weeks, I now feel comfortable and focused.

But what does Watson get out of it?

Price laughed.

"I asked Denis how much a percentage he wants, but he said he'd taken enough clubs from me over the years so there's no charge," Price said.

But the putter was only part of the package that produced his 64. Due to heavy rains earlier in the week, players were allowed to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway, which always improves scoring, Price said.

Wiebe, second last month at Westchester, played without a bogey and was two shots ahead of a group of six tied at 67, including two Utahns, Orem's Keith Clearwater and Provo's Dan Forsman.

The others are rookie Russell Biersdorf, Brian Kamm, Mike Hulbert and lefty Russ Cochran, a former winner of this title.

Fred Couples was in a large group at 68. Lee Janzen, making his first start since winning the U.S. Open, could do no better than a 73.