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FOREIGNERS TAKE EARLY PGA LEAD

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An unprecedented non-American sweep of golf's Big Four events moved a step closer to reality with the massive success of foreign stars in the first round of the PGA national championship.

Nick Price of Zimbabwe, the recent winner of the British Open, and Colin Montgomerie, the burly Scot who barely lost this year's U.S. Open, led the way Thursday with a pair of 3-under-par 67s.They were joined near the top of the leaderboard by former Masters champ Ian Woosnam of Wales, U.S. Open winner Ernie Els of South Africa, Sam Torrance of Scotland and David Gilford of England.

Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain had a 72.

As if to emphasize the shift in world golfing power, two aging Americans who led the United States' dominance of the game in earlier eras were subjected to exhibitions that could only be described as embarrassing.

Jack Nicklaus, 54, a five-time winner of this title, and Arnold Palmer, 64, playing in his 37th consecutive and last PGA, each struggled to a 79, 9-over par on the difficult Southern Hills Country Club course.

The American standard-bearers this time were a couple of returnees from the ranks of the walking wounded, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson.

Each shot 68 and were tied with Woosnam and Els a single shot off the lead.

Mickelson, still on the rebound from a broken leg sustained in a skiing accident, played without a bogey and Couples, who lost three months of the season to a bad back, birdied the last hole.

Just behind them were the American veterans including 51-year-old Ray Floyd, who won this title on this course in 1982. He was in a group at 69 that included Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller and Lanny Wadkins. Gilford and Torrance also were 1-under.

Paul Azinger, meanwhile, found he has a longer road to travel than he thought in his comeback after a successful battle with cancer.

"I didn't know I'd lost my edge," Azinger said following only his third competitive round since being diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer, shortly after winning this title a year ago.

"Obviously I'm not as ready as I thought I was," Azinger said after opening defense of his title with a 75.

He called his 5-over-par effort "the lack of a few putts going in and a few bad shots on a tough golf course."

Price, who has the opportunity to become the first winner of consecutive majors since Watson in 1982, clearly is the outstanding player in the world since his 1992 PGA victory.

He has won 13 times around the world since then, including three American tour events and the British Open this season.

"I'm still riding the crest of a wave that has been going on for some time now," he said. "Long may it last."

Price recovered from a pair of early three-putts and got his share of the lead with a 32 over the back late in the day when the spiked-up greens were at their worst. He climaxed the move to the top with a 9-iron to 4 feet on the 17th.

Montgomerie, who has been dubbed "Mrs. Doubtfire" by British writers, got around without a bogey in the slightly easier conditions of early morning.

"It's a tough course and not to drop a shot was important," he said. "I'm doing nothing wrong, which is the key. If I'm not making mistakes I'm playing well. And to go 18 holes without a mistake is good."