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Cauley, Dawson share 1st-round Sea Island lead

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia -- Bud Cauley has the same good vibes at Sea Island, even if the stakes are different this time.

The McGladrey Classic is where Cauley did well enough to secure his PGA Tour card, joining an elite list of players who went from college to a full tour card without going to Q-school. Now he's after his first win, and Cauley took a big step Thursday by overpowering the course for an 8-under 62.

It was his best score on the tour, and it gave him a share of the lead with Marco Dawson.

Winning is about all that's left for Cauley, the 22-year-old who already has made more than US$1.7 million this year, and has moved up to No. 55 in the world.

“Obviously, I've thought about winning every tournament I've teed up in this year,” Cauley said. “It's been a long year, and although I've played a lot this year, I haven't won. It's still a goal of mine, but I'm not thinking about that while I'm out there, or putting any more pressure on myself this week. The season is kind of wining down. It would be great to win here.”

Dawson is in a more desperate position.

The McGladrey Classic is the penultimate PGA Tour event on the schedule that counts toward the money list, and Dawson is at No. 216 with only $62,026 in 20 tournaments. The top 125 earn full cards for next year, so Dawson likely has to win to avoid a return to Q-school. His year has gone so badly that Dawson doesn't even look at the money list.

“I'm so far away from it that the only thing I can do is just try and play well,” Dawson said. “And when I am playing well, just to keep it going instead of kind of messing it up like I have during the year.”

Two others on the bubble — Boo Weekley (No. 121) and Rod Pampling (No. 124) joined Greg Owen at 64. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, the tournament host, was in a group at 65 that included Sea Island neighbor Zach Johnson, David Toms and Camilo Villegas, who is No. 152 on the money list.

Jim Furyk shot 66 in his first event since the Ryder Cup.

Dawson had a chance to mess up even a great day.

He twice had to take penalty strokes after errant tee shots on his last six holes and wound up losing only one shot. He took his lone bogey on the fourth hole, and then his tee shot on the par-5 seventh hit a tree and went into the water. Dawson took his drop, played 100 yards short of the green, hit wedge to 25 feet and holed the putt for par.

Cauley didn't have too many issues like that. He didn't have a par putt longer than 4 feet, and the slight kid from Jacksonville, Florida, pounded one tee shot after another, setting up wedges into many of the greens. He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine that carried him to a 29.

“There were a couple of shorter holes where if you get in the fairway, you have wedges in your hand. And I really just hit good shots, drove the ball in the fairway and put wedges in my hand,” he said. “Just hit good wedge shots and put the ball in the right spot on the green to leave myself pretty easy putts.”

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Bud Cauley reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 18th green during the first round of the McGladrey Classic PGA Tour golf tournament in St. Simons Island, Georgia, Thursday, Oct. 18. (AP)

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