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First round a shot of confidence for Beem

POTOMAC — POTOMAC - Come Sunday night, Rich Beem hopes to party here like it's 1999.

It might be a little more sedate affair, given that Beem is now married and the father of an 11-month-old son. It might also not be as significant a victory as it was when Beem won the Kemper Insurance Open as a rookie, given that he has a win at the 2002 PGA Championship on his resume.

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But given the way Beem has struggled this season, winning this week's $4.8 million Booz Allen Classic at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel would be a rather large step in the right direction. Beem's opening round of 7-under-par 64 was a positive start.

"I'm not looking at this week to turn things around, but obviously I'm looking for a shot of confidence coming out of this week, and I certainly got it today," said Beem, who is tied with Olin Browne and three strokes behind first-round leader Charles Howell III.

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Since holding off a late charge by Tiger Woods at Hazeltine outside Minneapolis to win the PGA - the same year Beem also won the International and finished seventh on the money list - the former club pro and cell phone salesman has not come close to winning.

After dropping to 71st on the money list last year, Beem started this season by missing the cut in his first three events and has now missed playing on the weekend in 11 out of 16 tournaments, including the U.S. Open last week. His best finishes this year have been a couple of 33rd-place ties.

Asked yesterday about the state of his game, Beem replied: "I wish you can tell me where my game has been."

Beem, who got so frustrated recently with his putting this year that he went to a cross-handed grip during the middle of a round at the Byron Nelson, attributes his slump to the aftermath of winning the PGA Championship.

"I was reading an article this morning in Sports Illustrated about David Duval and I thought he summed up how I felt after I won the PGA," said Beem, now 33. "I just ran and ran, and I thought that's what I was supposed to do. I really haven't taken much time off, and I think that hurt me.

"I would get to a lot of events and not care about being there. I had so many other things going on in my life. A child, buying a new house in Austin, Texas, you name it. Just getting through life and feeling I had to go out and play, feeling like I had to do this because I didn't want everyone else to gobble up all the money."

But as Duval admitted upon his return to competitive golf last week at Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open, Beem wasn't bothered by poor results.

"I didn't care about missing cuts," Beem said. "It really didn't affect me. I would get upset about it, but so what? Reading about David really kind of made me - it was almost like a relief. It was like, man, somebody else feels that way, too, not just me. ... But I'm excited about playing now, and I'm hoping I play well for the rest of the year."


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