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OBSCURE PRO BRADLEY LEADS PGA WITH 63

If you're looking for a working title for what took place in the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday, "The Ravaging of Riviera" might not be a bad place to start. Throughout a pristine Southern California day - windless, cloudless and defenseless - an army of golfers laid waste to the old course on the hill.

The charge was led by Michael Bradley, 29, who shot a blistering round of eight-under-par 63 to tie the record for the lowest round in a major championship. Bradley, who has not won a tournament in three years on the PGA Tour, joins an elite list of 18 golfers who have shot 63 in a major. Johnny Miller in the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont was the first, Vijay Singh in the 1993 PGA Championship was the last.Until now. Now comes an obscure pro from Valrico, Fla., who has put himself into the record books and on top of the leaderboard, one stroke ahead of Jim Gallagher Jr. and Mark O'Meara, who shot 64, two strokes ahead of John Adams and three up on Greg Norman, Gil Morgan, Chip Beck, Jeff Maggert, Ernie Els and Lee Janzen.

"I'd like three more of them," Bradley said of his round, adjusting his purple shades and basking in the the glow of the 63. "As I was going to the 18th tee, I heard somebody say something about that nobody had ever shot 62 in a major. I was thinking I could make birdie and shoot 62. I gave myself a chance. That's all you could ask for."

His 22-foot putt for the record at the last hole hit a spike mark and slid to the left, missing by a foot and a half. That was nearly the last putt to be knocked off line on greens that were bumpier than the San Diego Freeway. But what the surfaces lacked in smoothness was more than offset by a softness that made them approachable. Golfers were throwing their shots right at the flag, and 57 players in the field of 150 broke par, tying the record set in 1993 at Inverness.

This full-frontal assault was about the last thing that could have been predicted, given the fact that spike marks Norman said were the size of land mines were arrayed across the greens. But the leaders weren't complaining.

"The greens were soft, the ball was sitting up in the fairways and when that happens, you just feel like you can go right after the pin," said Gallagher, who did just that.

It's scary to think of what the field would have done had the greens been glassy. But the storming of Riviera was, in a way, gruesomely beautiful to watch. Gallagher's round was flawless, a seven-birdie, no-bogey onslaught. And for Bradley, whose lowest previous round in a major was 10 strokes higher than Thursday's, this was a dreamlike stroll. He only came close to bogey once, missing the 15th green but getting up and down.

His round started with an eagle at the first hole, after a 6-iron shot stopped 20 feet from the hole. He hit a 9-iron to 12 feet at the third and a 7-iron to 4 feet at the fifth.

"About this time I'm thinking that maybe I might be able to do something," said Bradley, who once shot a 59 in a pro-am in Saskatchewan in 1991.

His 9-iron to 8 feet at the ninth hole gave him an outward 30. He birdied three more holes, getting the 12th from 20 feet, the 16th from 25 and the 17th from 18.

It was the kind of day where just about anybody with a pulse was going low. Jack Nicklaus shot a 69, and if he makes the cut he will break Arnold Palmer's record for most rounds completed in a PGA (121).

Of course, it wasn't pleasant for everyone on the greensward on Thursday. Phil Mickelson shot a surprising 77. And John Daly, sporting a bald head on his corpulent body and looking like a golfing version of Uncle Fester from the Addams Family, put on his own private horror show for the galleries.

On his way to a round of 76 that severely dented his chances of making the Ryder Cup team (he needs at least a tie for fifth place this week), Daly, the reigning British Open champion, chopped up the green at the par-three sixth hole and lost a ball in the barranca on the 12th hole, where he made a triple bogey.

At the sixth, the only hole in America with a bunker in the middle of the green, Daly hit his 7-iron on the wrong side of the trap. Daly then chunked a big slab of sod out of the putting surface as he stubbed his chip into the fringe of the bunker. He chipped six feet past and missed the putt.

At the 12th, his drive came to rest near a fence deep to the right. He backhanded his ball out with his putter, then bounced a wedge shot off an overhanging tree limb and into the barranca fronting the green. It was never found, and Daly then chipped on and two-putted for triple.