AVONDALE, La. - Never heard of Kyle Reifers?
Neither had numerous people in the gallery in the opening round of the Zurich Classic, whom Reifers could hear mispronouncing his name.
Teeing off for only his eighth time on the PGA Tour, Reifers (pronounced RYE-furs, for future reference) shot a course-record 8-under 64 on the 7,341-yard TPC Louisiana on Thursday, giving him a two-shot lead.
His closest challenger was seasoned pro and 1989 British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, who shot a 66. Calcavecchia acknowledged that even he did not know much about the man he was chasing.
"I know what he looks like," Calcavecchia said. "I've introduced myself to him."
Tim Petrovic, who won the only other PGA Tour event held on this course in 2005, finished his round in a four-way tie for fourth at 67, along with Lucas Glover, Jason Schultz and Tom Johnson.
The PGA Tour stop in New Orleans has a way of bringing out the best in guys who've never won on the tour. And if Reifers keeps this up, he'd become the fifth tour pro to take his first victory in New Orleans in the last six years.
The freckle-faced rookie, thick red hair curling out from under the sides and back of his baseball cap, emerged from the scoring tent having no idea he had just broken the course record of 65, set in 2005 by Chris DiMarco and Arjun Atwal.
"That's the least of my worries," Reifers said. "It doesn't really mean much to me right now. ... At the end of the week, hopefully it will mean a lot."
Reifers barely emerged from last year's PGA Tour qualifying tournament with his tour card for 2007, making an 18-foot putt in the final stage to tie for 29th. No one who finished worse qualified for this year's tour.
At the same time, it's not as if he came out of nowhere. The Wake Forest graduate finished second in the 2006 NCAA championship, then turned pro immediately, winning a Tar Heel Tour event in Charlotte, N.C., the next week. One week after that, he won his first Nationwide Tour event at Chattanooga, where he also set a course record with a 61 on the final round and sank a 15-foot put to win in a playoff hole.
This year, he has entered six prior events, making the cut in three of them and cracking the top 25 only once, when he tied for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando a month ago.
Thursday night marked the first time he would try to fall asleep knowing he was in the lead of a PGA Tour event.
"I'm more happy than nervous," Reifers said. "That's a good problem. It means your playing well."
Chris Couch, who won last year, was eight shots behind. Couch won at English Turn, which was supposed to have seen its last event in 2004, but had to host it once again after Hurricane Katrina blew down about 2,000 trees and swamped several fairways at the TPC Louisiana, which closed for 10 months after the storm.
After about $2 million in repairs to about 30 acres of turf and the planting of about 300 trees, the TPC Louisiana reopened last July and now is hosting its second event.
It's loaded with fairway obstacles that included steep "pot" bunkers, isolated trees hanging over the edges of fairways and water hazards.
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