Some early success produced a casual attitude, and Keith Clearwater paid the price for it.

"You can't casually go about playing in the major leagues. And that's what it is out here," Clearwater said after a 7-under-par 65 gave him the first-round lead Thursday in the $1.35 million Players Championship in Ponte Verde, Fla.

"I let myself get into a casual attitude about attempting excellence. You can't do that," said Clearwater, who won twice in claiming the rookie of the year title in 1987, only to slump in 1988.

"It's a privilege to play out here (on the PGA Tour), and it's a privilege that can leave quickly," he said.

"I had to re-dedicate myself to the game about midseason last year," said Clearwater, a low-key personality who refused to be either elated about his nine birdies on Thursday or dejected about a bogey-bogey finish on the TPC course at Sawgrass.

"It was almost fun," he said. "A good round like today comes because of good putting.

"I've had probably 15 rounds this year that have been just as good, but the score didn't materialize because I wasn't rolling it.

"That's why I'm trying to take it all in stride. It's not like I'm ready to go out and shoot 62 every day," Clearwater said.

Bruce Lietzke, Steve Pate and South African David Frost were tied at 66 on a warm, windless day that produced unusually low scoring in the annual championship of golf's touring pros.

***** In Arizona, Martha Nause made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole Thursday to complete a 6-under-par 66 and open a one-stroke lead after the first round of the $300,000 LPGA Tucson Open.

Missie Berteotti and Penny Hammel forged into contention with 67s on the par-72, 6,243-yard Randolph North Golf Course.

Defending champion Laura Davies, Vicki Fergon, Cindy Mackey and Jan Stephenson, who won the 1983 LPGA Tour event here, were two shots back at 68.

Eight players shot 69. Among them were Nancy Lopez, whose 1981 Tucson Open crown counts among her 39 Tour wins, and Patty Sheehan, who has 19 career titles. The others were Dale Eggeling, Lori Garbacz, Colleen Walker, Heather Farr, Jody Rosenthal and Trish Johnson.

Ten golfers were four shots behind after rounds of 70, and 11 were tied at 71.

In all, 36 players in the field of 144 broke par for the day. However, Betsy King, this season's leading money-winner through the first four tournaments, shot a 1-over 73.