Defending champion Mark Calcavecchia shot a first-round 65 and leads the Boeing Classic. He has a three-shot lead over five players tied for second, including Pullman High School graduate Kirk Triplett. Seattle's Fred Couples was forced to withdraw with a back injury after teeing off on the first hole.

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SNOQUALMIE — The star left but the show goes on, and no one was better in the opening round Friday of the Boeing Classic than the guy who was holding the winner’s trophy at the end of last year.

Most of the early buzz at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge revolved around the injury withdrawal of Seattle native Fred Couples, who hurt his back on his first shot, but defending champion Mark Calcavecchia became the big story late.

Calcavecchia, who has had some of his best success in the Northwest, shot a 7-under-par 65 to take a three-shot lead over five players, including Pullman High School graduate Kirk Triplett.

Calcavecchia also shot a 65 in the final round last year to force a playoff with Russ Cochran, a playoff Calcavecchia won on the first hole for his first victory on the Champions Tour for players 50 and older.

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It could have been an even bigger lead Friday for Calcavecchia, 52. He bogeyed the par-5 18th, one of the easiest holes on the course, to conclude his round.

“To make a 6 on an easy par 5 is kind of nauseating, and it kind of wrecks an otherwise great day,” said Calcavecchia, who predicted he would forget about the bogey after calling his wife, who wouldn’t tolerate his complaining about it. “All in all, I played great. My first rounds lately haven’t been very good, and I rectified that situation a little bit.”

Calcavecchia has history against him as no first-round leader has won this event, now in its eighth year.

With Couples out, Triplett carried the state’s banner just fine. He shot a bogey-free 68 and is in a five-way tie for second place.

“I didn’t play great, but I made some nice par saves on my first nine that kept the momentum going,” Triplett said. “I’ve had a lot of rounds where I’ve made four birdies, but I also make three bogeys. Today I avoided the bogeys.

“In a three-round tournament, you can’t afford to shoot a couple over and get too far behind, so I’m thrilled where I am at.”

In the group with Triplett at 4-under are Steve Pate, Jay Don Blake, Jeff Sluman and Eduardo Romero.

At one point, Tom Kite, 62, was in second by himself, sitting at 5 under after the 16th hole. But the only two-time Boeing Classic champion (2006 and 2008, Kite’s last Champions Tour victory) had a triple bogey at No. 17. He rebounded with a birdie on the 18th and shot a 69 for a tie for seventh with five others.

Calcavecchia, who won twice in the Vancouver, B.C., area on the PGA Tour, took the lead Friday when he eagled the par-5 eighth hole.

“I tried to stay aggressive and keep making birdies and shoot as low as I could, which is pretty much the object,” he said. “There’s nothing to try to protect at this point. There’s 36 holes left.”

What has to be of concern to the rest of the field is the confidence Calcavecchia is gaining on this course.

He tied for 15th in his first try here in 2010, “and I didn’t do anything too spectacular the first 27 (holes) last year.”

Calcavecchia turned it around quickly last year, and he looked just as good Friday.

“I feel like I know that I can shoot good scores on this course now … and it’s not that easy to shoot a low score on. Having shot back-to-back 65s (including the final round last year) is a good confidence-builder.”

After Friday’s first round. Par 72.
Player Par
Mark Calcavecchia -7
Steve Pate -4
Jay Don Blake -4
Jeff Sluman -4
Kirk Triplett -4
Eduardo Romero -4
Joel Edwards -3
Jim Gallagher, Jr. -3
Willie Wood -3
Rod Spittle -3
Brad Faxon -3
Tom Kite -3
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