Jay Williamson tied the Tournament Players Club at Avenel course record with a 29 on the back nine Thursday to share the lead with Steve Lowery after the first round of the Kemper Insurance Open.
Williamson put together an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie stretch from the 13th to the 16th en route to a 7-under 64. Williamson eagled the par-5 13th even though his drive landed in a small divot. He hit a 5-iron to the green and sank the putt from 40 feet. He had a chance to tie the 18-hole course record, but he missed a 12-footer at the 18th.
Lowery's round was more touch-and-go. At 7 under through 14 holes, he clipped a tree going for the green on his second shot at the par-5 6th. It took several minutes and about a dozen people to find his ball buried amongst the leaves on a hill overlooking the green.
The ball was ruled "embedded," allowing Lowery a drop in the woods. He chipped to the green and saved par.
Justin Leonard was a stroke back at 65, but he would have been tied for the lead were it not for a stroke penalty incurred when his ball moved just before he putted on No. 13. Leonard was tied for third with Greg Chalmers, Brett Quigley and Craig Barlow.
Leonard was 5 under at the turn, but missed from 5 feet at the 10th and from 6 feet at the 15th. His only birdie on the back nine came when he missed both the fairway and the green on the par-4 16th. His tee shot was in the rough beyond a sand trap, and his approached landed in the collection area behind the green. He then chipped in from 40 feet.
But Leonard's most aggravating moment came as he placed his putter behind the ball before attempting a 2-foot putt for birdie at No. 13. He looked at the hole, then looked back at his putter and realized the ball had rolled back slightly and was resting against his club.
Leonard called the penalty on himself and made the putt for par. Frustrated, he then flung his putter on his bag, calling out "5" to the scorer. "It's something that seems to happen to me twice a year," Leonard said. "And it always seems to happen in a good round."
Williamson, Chalmers, Quigley and Barlow are seeking to add to the Kemper's legacy of first-time winners. Tom Scherrer, also looking for his first PGA TOUR victory, shot a 67.
Defending champion Rich Beem opened with a 70. Ernie Els, who stands ninth in the Official World Golf Rankings, had a 72.