Lancaster gladly unpacks

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

ANCASTER -- Neal Lancaster was preparing for a quiet exit. This time, he wasn\'t going to be everybody\'s favourite loser at the Bell Canadian Open. He was destined to be gone at the cut after shooting a five-over 75 in the first round.

But funny things seem to happen to Lancaster at this tournament. And yesterday, the funny thing was a good thing.

Lancaster, who blew a two-stroke lead on the final hole of last year\'s Canadian Open at Angus Glen and then lost a playoff to John Rollins, carded a tournament-best five-under 65 yesterday. Suddenly, Lancaster is back in contention at even par, just five strokes behind leader Charles Howell III.

\"I didn\'t expect anything,\" Lancaster, a native of Smithfield, N.C., said. \"I packed my luggage and I was heading home.\"

You couldn\'t really blame Lancaster, 40, for the negative attitude after three-putting six times during the first round.

\"You can\'t take it as a job, but some mornings you get up, like this morning, and I didn\'t want to play golf,\" he said. \"But I said this is what you do. You\'ve gotta play golf.\"

He did just that. Even par through six holes after starting on No. 10, Lancaster started his run with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 16. Another birdie followed on the next hole. Three birdies later, including a ridiculous 66-foot putt on No. 5, and Lancaster was off to the races.

\"I still struggled,\" Lancaster said. \"But I had some luck (yesterday) and I didn\'t (Thursday). I three-putted six times (Thursday) or I could be right in this.\"

Near misses seem to be the story of Lancaster\'s career. He missed seven of the first eight cuts to start the year, most by narrow margins. He acknowledges that could have been a post-Canadian Open hangover.

\"I kind of lost interest in the game a bit,\" he said.

But Lancaster has made the past seven cuts and he fought off pre-tournament jitters here.

\"It was kind of emotional the first day and you try to put all that stuff behind you,\" Lancaster, reminded about last year\'s choke in several articles before the tourney, said. \"But you come in here and after last year, I really thought we didn\'t stand much of a chance at all.\"

Lancaster, 113th on the PGA Tour money list and shooting to hang on to his card by staying in the top 125, certainly doesn\'t back down, though. He again is using Seaforth caddie Kenny Doig, who came in last year when Lancaster\'s regular caddie Billy Poore, had his car break down in Pennsylvania.


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