Tiger Woods is back, along with buddy Mark O'Meara. Justin Leonard is stalking the fairways, and Lee Janzen and Payne Stewart are paired together again.
So with all those big guns at the Western Open, the top of the leaderboard belongs to . . . Greg Kraft.Who?
While some of the biggest names in golf were hacking and struggling just to hold on, Kraft was firing birdie after birdie Thursday in the first round of the Western Open. The guy who didn't even know he had a sponsor's exemption until Monday shot a 5-under-par 67 to take a 1-stroke lead in the $2.2 million, Motorola-sponsored event at Cog Hill's Dubsdread course.
"This is my seventh year on the tour," said Kraft, who's never won a PGA Tour event. "I've been here enough that I'm not intimidated by these guys. They're all friends of mine. I play golf with them all the time. I know what my skills are and it's just a matter of getting it done."
Get it done, he did. Kraft was at even par after the seventh hole, and then moved in front with four straight birdies on Nos. 8-11. He birdied 15, 16 and 17 to go 6-under, but finished his round with a bogey.
While other players were bothered by the strong winds and humidity that made 90 degrees feel like 100, Kraft was in control all day long.
"I hit some really good shots, but the key to the round was not only making those short putts, but my misses were all in play," said Kraft, who finished second here in 1994 after he bogeyed the 18th hole.
Janzen, the U.S. Open champion, Vijay Singh and Joe Durant were one stroke behind Kraft. Singh was tied with Kraft going to the 18th hole, but his first two shots were poor, and he two-putted for a bogey.
Jim McGovern and Steve Flesch were two shots back at 69.
Woods, the defending champion, is so far back he needed a major move today just to make the cut.