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Watson and Nicklaus blast from past, rank among leaders


NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus came ambling out of the past and put their names among the leaders yesterday in the USF&G; Classic.

"The old folks are doing all right, aren't they?" Watson, 41, said after his 5-under-par 67 gave him a place in a five-way tie for the first-round lead.

"Watson? A mere pup," smiled Nicklaus, who matched up with Watson in some historic head-to-head confrontations going back the mid-1970s.

Watson shared the top spot with former U.S. Amateur champions Billy Mayfair and Sam Randolph, as well as Phil Blackmar and Dillard Pruitt.

Nicklaus, 51, was one stroke back at 68 in a group that included Kenny Knox, Ronnie Black, Bob Lohr, Barry Jaeckel and Karl Kimball.

For Nicklaus, it was a continuation of the strong play he exhibited in his last outing, a fifth-place finish in the Doral Ryder Open.

He missed only one green and made bogey there, on the 17th, depriving him of a share of the top spot.

Tommy Armour III was disqualified after missing his early-morning starting time.

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Cathy Gerring overcame the rain, wind and cold to shoot a 3-under-par 70 for a two-stroke lead after the first round.

Betsy King, who won this event in 1985 and has 23 tour victories in her 15-year career, was tied for second with Caroline Keggi, a non-winner in her third season.

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