Price is right in windy Florida

He is a three-time major winner, but Nick Price was actually nervous as he played his first round in the Honda Classic at PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

At 54, his last major came nearly 17 years ago, and his competitive golf comes in the far more relaxed atmosphere of the Champions Tour, but he showed that his ability to devise a gameplan to deal with conditions remains undimmed, even if he is losing some of his trademark muscularity to age.

So he carded a level-par 70 in windy conditions, to trail leader Spencer Levin, who lost a playoff last week in Mexico, by two strokes.

Charl Schwartzel is in a share of second, one stroke behind Levin, together with Stuart Appelby, Kyle Stanley, Greg Chalmers and YE Yang.

And Price has outscored the other South Africans in the field, with Rory Sabbatini carding a one-over 71, Trevor Immelman a four-over 74, and Louis Oosthuizen and former champion Ernie Els each battling to five-over 75.

Price’s fellow Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge posted 74 on a day during which only eight players in the 144-man field broke par.

“Greg Chalmers and Vaughn Taylor were very kind and made me feel welcome,” said Price of his playing partners who helped settle his nerves. “I had no expectations today. So I’m really happy where I am.”

Patience was his virtue as other struggled: “It was US Open-type conditions and being patient in these conditions is really important,” he said.

The course wasn’t easy for a player whose distance off the tee is diminishing, either. “If I had to choose one of the courses to play out here, this wouldn’t have been my first choice, because it’s such a hard golf course, and particularly the finish.

“I probably would have preferred to start at a Colonial or Hilton Head; it probably would have been a little easier on the nerves than today,” he added.

He was playing his first regular PGA Tour event in three years, and chose to play in the event because he lives just 20 minutes from the course.

“I probably wore out the grooves on my long irons,” Price said. “I haven’t hit that many three-irons or four-irons the last year on the Champions Tour. But I’ve always fancied myself as a good wind player.”

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