PARAMUS, N.J. -- With two perfect shots, Hunter Mahan put a terrible week at the PGA Championship behind him at The Barclays.
Playing in calm morning conditions at demanding Ridgewood Country Club, Mahan split the fairway with his opening drive, then watched his 98-yard sand wedge shot spin back into the hole for an eagle.
Seventeen holes and eight birdies later, he signed for a 9-under 62, good for a four-stroke lead Thursday in the FedEx Cup playoff opener.
Two weeks ago in the PGA at Oakland Hills, the 26-year-old former Oklahoma State player shot 81-79 to miss the cut, and made news with critical remarks about the Ryder Cup in a Golf magazine interview.
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"I wanted to get that out of my system and just play golf today -- and I did," said Mahan, trying to earn a spot on the Ryder Cup team as one of Paul Azinger's four captain's picks. "It was a pretty tough week, but you learn from your mistakes."
England's Paul Casey shot a 66, and Bo Van Pelt, Kevin Streelman, Mathew Goggin, Charley Hoffman and afternoon starter Dudley Hart had 67s.
NATIONWIDE TOUR, at Moscow, Pa. -- Modesto's Matt Bettencourt shot an even-par 70 in the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic at Elmhurst CC. His three-birdie, three-bogey round included pars on his final seven holes. Chris Tidland and Greg Chalmers share the lead at 63.
U.S. AMATEUR, at Pinehurst, N.C. -- Danny Lee, the world's top-ranked amateur at 18, dominated Clemson freshman Jacob Burger 5 and 4 in the second round, then defeated Wichita State's Connor McHenry 7 and 6 in the round of 16.
PALMER AND PEBBLE -- As Pebble Beach prepares for the 2010 U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer will tweak it to protect it from the onslaught of the planet's best golfers. Palmer probably has visited every square inch of turf.
As a member of the board at the Pebble Beach Company, Palmer is in charge of making changes at Pebble to help guard against the possibility that some power-hitting pro will make short work of the course.
"I won't say we've made major changes, but we've made some changes that will make the golf course even better," he said. "It won't be the longest course, but it will be one you have to figure out how to get around it."
Pebble Beach is consistently one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour (it played 6,816 yards for AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am). Palmer said much of the work he's doing is to add bunkering, or change existing bunkers, to make players think twice about bombing their way around the course.
Palmer, 78, said No. 3 is a perfect example of what he's hoping to achieve. With added bunkers on the hillside that face the tee box, players have to decide whether to take a chance and cut the corner to the green or simply hit iron into the fairway.