Eagle Helps James Take Legends Lead

Friday, April 20th 2007, 3:29 pm

By: News On 6

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Mark James had an eagle and shot a 5-under 67 Friday for the first-round lead in chilly, windy conditions at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

James, seeking his second Champions Tour win of the year, had bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 that left him clinging to a one-shot lead over defending champion Jay Haas, Tom Kite and Tom Purtzer.

Players had to contend with northeast wind up to 20 mph blowing off the Atlantic Ocean and up the Savannah River early in the day. Temperatures never got out of the low 60s.

"My short game was good. It was as simple as that," said James, fresh off his annual ski trip to the French Alps. "On a day like today, you have to be able to chip and putt."

The Englishman's eagle came at No. 11, a 530-yard, par-5 where James hit 3-wood to within 6 feet of the pin.

James got to 7-under after a birdie at the par-4 14th. That got Purtzer's attention.

"I was looking at the scoreboard and he was 7-under," Purtzer recalled. "I thought, 'Gee, he must be playing in the team (best ball) thing.' That was some fantastic golf on a day like today. That was impressive."

Haas, who had four birdies on the back nine, also was impressed that James once had it to 7-under.

"I saw Nick Price talking to Mark's caddy when we were making the turn," Haas said. "He said, 'Well, which holes did you skip?"'

It's not the first time James has sparkled for at least one round at The Club at Savannah Harbor, a 7,087-yard island layout in the middle of the river. Last year, he had a pair of eagles on the front nine and set a tournament course record with an 8-under 64 in the final round. Still, he finished 12 strokes back of Haas.

Brad Bryant shot 69 on Friday. Irishman Des Smyth, the 2005 winner, shot 71. Hale Irwin, the 2004 winner, shot 70.

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