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Bohn takes charge in New Orleans, Duval three back

HOUSTON (Reuters) - American Jason Bohn wielded a red-hot putter to charge two shots clear in the New Orleans Classic first round in Avondale, Louisiana on Thursday with former world number one David Duval three off the pace.

His only blemish on a relatively calm morning came at the par-five last where he tried to reach the green in two only to end up in water with his second shot.

"I just putted extremely well today," Bohn told reporters after recording eight birdies, one bogey and 26 putts. "Every good opportunity I had for birdie, I made it.

"And I made a couple of good par-saving putts so just to lose one (stroke) on the last hole, I won't be too concerned about it."

Bohn, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2005 B.C. Open, tried to fade a three-iron from 220 yards with his second shot on 18.

BETTER EXECUTION

"I was playing aggressive on the last hole," he said. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd hit the exact same shot. Hopefully, I'd execute better than I did but I was trying to make three there to be honest."

Fellow American Duval, who has not won since the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, was in upbeat mood after carding a flawless, four-birdie 68.

"I hit the ball pretty well," said the 38-year-old after finishing level with compatriots Charles Howell III, Troy Merritt and Kevin Sutherland and South Korean KJ Choi, the 2002 champion.

"I think breaking 70 is an accomplishment out here most of the time. The greens just seemed especially hard today compared to yesterday, so I'm very pleased."

"I felt like I was going to (win) at the (2009) U.S. Open, the (2010) AT&T (Pebble Beach National Pro-Am). I felt really good about what I was doing. I was comfortable in the situation, so I think that's close."

Duval, who held the top ranking in 1999, plummeted to 882nd after his 2001 British Open win amid injuries and personal trauma but has since clawed his way back to 118.

Last year's winner Jerry Kelly of the U.S. opened with a 71 at the TPC Louisiana while Spaniard Sergio Garcia returned a 73 and Canadian left-hander Mike Weir a 76.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)