Dah­men, Straka share early lead at In­nis­brook

Sun.Star Pampanga - - ENTERTAINMENT! - ALM HAR­BOR, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour event that doesn’t have Tiger Woods this year in­stead has the Leap­ing Cougar.

PThat’s a child­hood nick­name for Joel Dah­men, who took ad­van­tage of gen­tle, morn­ing con­di­tions Thurs­day on a tough Cop­per­head course for a 5un­der 66 and a share of the lead with Aus­trian-born Sepp Straka in the Valspar Cham­pi­onship.

The tour­na­ment, try­ing to have a lit­tle fun dur­ing Spring Break in Florida, al­lowed play­ers to put what­ever name they wanted on the back of their cad­die’s bib. Dah­men, a can­cer sur­vivor who keeps golf and life in per­spec­tive, went with the name he was given as a boy in Washington state when he was part of a scouts group. Dah­men doesn’t leap. “I’ve never seen a cougar,” he said.

His fa­ther brought some child­hood mem­o­ra­bilia to the Phoenix Open. Dah­men saw the “Leap­ing Cougar” la­bel, a tour friend got hold of it and the cat was out of the bag.

“I fig­ured the rest of the world should see it this week,” Dah­men said.

Dah­men is play­ing a course he had never seen for the third straight week. But he has been play­ing well of late and con­sid­ers him­self a streaky player. Com­ing off a tie for 12th at The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship, he han­dled In­nis­brook with six birdies and a strong fin­ish — a 6-iron to 4 feet for birdie on No. 3, a 7-iron to 5 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 9.

The lead stood when the wind picked up in the af­ter­noon. Of the 28 rounds in the 60s, only eight were in the af­ter­noon. One of them be­longed to Dustin John­son, the No. 1 player in the world, who had not seen In­nis­brook in nine years. He had a 69, with one birdie com­ing on the 578-yard 14th hole with a big drive and a 3-wood dead into the wind to 30 feet.

Chris Navarro

LA­BAN NG NORTE. (L-R) NLEX Road War­rior Team Cap­tain Larry Fonacier, NLEX Road War­rior Head Coach Joseller 'Yeng' Guiao, PBA Com­mis­sioner Wil­lie Mar­cial, Bran­gay Gine­bra Head Coach Tim Cone and Barangay Gine­bra Team Cap­tain Joe De­vance join hands dur­ing Thurs­day's La­ban ng Norte press con­fer­ence for the game to­day, March 23, Satur­day at the An­ge­les Univer­sity Foun­da­tion Gym, An­ge­les City. -

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