Jimenez leads by 3 in tour debut

Duluth, GA ( - Miguel Angel Jimenez fired a 7-under 65 in the rainy opening round Friday to grab a 3-stroke lead at the Greater Gwinnett Championship.

Jimenez, who is making his Champions Tour debut, is coming off a fourth place finish last week at the Masters.

Bernhard Langer, the defending champion, posted a 4-under 68 and he was joined in second place by Kenny Perry and Steve Pate.

Fred Couples and Jeff Sluman are tied for fifth at minus-3, while Colin Montgomerie, P.H. Horgan III, Rod Spittle and Jeff LeMaster are one stroke back at the TPC Sugarloaf at 2-under 70.

Jimenez did most of his damage on the back nine, where he started. He opened with a birdie on No. 10, then parred his next two holes. He converted a birdie effort on the 13th and made it two in a row as he also birdied No. 14.

The Spaniard followed with his third consecutive birdie on the 15th. Jimenez, who was already leading, jumped to minus-6 when he made eagle on the par-5 18th.

Jimenez dropped in a birdie effort on the second to move to 7-under. He finished there as he capped his round with seven consecutive pars.

"It was not easy. Not hard rain, but it kept coming, coming, coming, sometimes a little bit thicker," Jimenez said. "I had a hard time trying to keep my hands dry, and the grips dry and especially trying to get the clubface of the driver dry because the ball likes to skip from the driver and that happened several times today."

Langer birdied the 10th, then parred his next five holes. He made birdie on the par-3 16th and like Jimenez, made eagle at 18 to make the turn at minus-4.

Around the turn, Langer traded a bogey for a birdie from the third. He finished his round with five pars in a row.

"It was as cold and ugly as it can get. Never stopped raining for two minutes. Played very nicely, I was very happy with my ball striking," Langer admitted. "Hit a lot of greens, just didn't make the putts I would have liked to make. I had a lot of close shaves burning the edges."

Perry opened with birdies at 12 and 14. He made birdie on the 18th to make the turn at minus-3. On the second nine, Perry parred his first six holes before sinking a birdie chance on No. 7. He parred the last two to share second and close out a bogey-free round.

"Just kind of played like the rain, very steady. You know, the rain was just more aggravating than anything. I mean it was chilly out there a little bit and the rain was aggravating," Perry said. "So I drove the ball nicely, I hit my irons good and made some key putts at the right time."

Pate was the opposite of the others with most of his scoring on the second nine. He parred three in a row from the 10th before dropping in a birdie try on the 13th. Pate parred the next five before making a birdie on No. 1.

He gave that shot back on the par-4 third. Pate soared into a share of second with three straight birdies from the fifth.

NOTES: If Jimenez wins, that would make it two straight players winning in their Champions Tour debut, after Jeff Maggert won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic ... The first-round leader has won one of the first five tour events this year ... Langer's 68 was his 17th straight under-par round ... Mark Wiebe and D.A. Weibring both withdrew during the first round.