Carlos Franco is hardly the advertisement for any aspiring tour professional as his work ethic on the practice side of the game is next to nil. But for a man who would rather kick back and relax with a cold beer and a ciggy instead of heading to the range, he is not doing too bad in his quest to become one of the great rags to riches stories of the PGA tour.
Franco leads after the first round of the Shell Houston Open along with 1998 U.S. Amateur champion Hank Kuehne. They both shot 7-under-par 65s around the tight Woodlands course in Texas.
Franco, who shuns the driving range and shows up as late as possible for rounds, arrived at the tournament Tuesday after spending the Easter holiday with his family in Paraguay. He brought a supply of chipas, a cornbread-like food, to remind him of home.
"I brought them down here so I could eat them, to give me power," Franco joked, flexing his biceps.
Something worked for Franco, who was the PGA TOUR's Rookie of the Year in 1999. He teed off with the morning group under clear, cool conditions and finished with eight birdies and one bogey, equaling the 65 he shot in the first round of the Honda Classic for his low round this year.
Franco had 15-foot birdie putts on the fourth and fifth holes and his only bogey came on No. 10, after he hit a 9-iron to the left. He birdied three straight holes, finishing with a 2-foot birdie putt on No. 14.
"I hit a 7-iron two feet from the pin," he said. "That was a great shot, my best shot of the day."
Kuehne went right to work, starting on the back nine. He had pars on the first two holes and then ran in birdies on seven of the next eight holes to tie Franco for the lead. He bogeyed the par-4 fourth hole to drop a shot back, but birdied No. 8 to tie for the lead.
"I've been working hard on my game. IIt comes as easily as it goes," said Kuehne, who turned pro last June. "Honestly, it seems like another day of work. You come in each day and the emotions are the same. It's great to be the co-leader, but the emotions are the same if I shoot 7 under or 3 over."
Craig Stadler, Kevin Sutherland, Brian Gay and Jerry Smith opened with 66s on the Tournament Players Club at The Woodlands. Doug Barron, Fred Funk, Dave Stockton Jr. and Paul Stankowski shot 67s.
Stadler had the second double-eagle 2 on the PGA TOUR this year, holing a 245-yard 3-wood shot on the 521-yard 15th hole.
"No matter where it was, I knew I'd have a putt for an eagle," Stadler said. "It just flew right of the fringe and took a little bounce. I couldn't see it from there. It went kind of down over that little rise. In she went."
Not many fans got to see the shot.
"Maybe 10 or 15 (fans) -- and probably eight of them were marshals," Stadler said. "There were maybe 100-150 people around, but not many of them were at the green.
David Sutherland's double eagle at the Honda Classic is the only other one on the PGA TOUR this year.
Hal Sutton, with victories in two of his last three tournaments, shot a 71. Defending champion Stuart Appleby of Australia shot a 69. John Daly and John Cook had an interesting time on No. 13, a par 5 that features an island green with two bridges that protrude like rabbit ears on a TV. Daly's ball rolled through the green and stopped on the bridge on the right. Cook, playing in the same group, hit his approach on the left bridge. Daly finished with a 74, and Cook shot a 69.