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After Storm's factory stint, leading PGA is piece of cake
After struggling to establish himself as a pro, Graeme Storm spent one winter working at a cream cake factory. Sobered by his experience in the real world, he rededicated himself to golf, and leads the PGA Championship after Round One in Tulsa.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.com Chief of Correspondents
TULSA, Okla. -- He didn't actually make the cream cakes. No, Graeme Storm worked outside the factory, standing there in the damp, winter cold, pressure washing the trays those sweet, gooey cakes were baked on.
Storm had just lost his playing privileges on the European Challenge Tour after earning about $2,500 during the 2002 season. So the $300 or so he made each week came
in handy when it came time to buy Christmas presents and shore up some lingering debts.
"It was just one of those things, really," Storm patiently recalled Thursday for the umpteenth time. "You have to bite the bullet and go back. I was just being a normal person doing an everyday job, eight hours a day."
And now for the rest of the story, as Tulsa native Paul Harvey would say.
The same man who had wondered whether he would ever play professional golf again fired a sterling 65 on a steamy Thursday at Southern Hills to earn a two-stroke lead after the first round of the 89th PGA Championship.
Storm could only dream of a day like this in those days when his career seemed to be turning into a nightmare. He left the cream cake factory after three months to play in a Challenge Tour event in Zambia. His rounds of 83-78 there didn't do much to inspire confidence, either.
"I thought that might be the end, to be honest," Storm said. "I thought maybe (I'd) go and play for pleasure or go back and play as an amateur, you know, to give me a kick in the backside that I really needed if I'm honest.
"Maybe I needed a taste, a bit of reality of what life's really about, and I think I came out the right side."
So Storm persevered and got his card back, and the 29-year-old from Hartlepool, England, won his first European Tour event last month. He made up five strokes with a final-round 66 to capture the Alstom Open de France, beating Soren Hansen by a shot.
The victory opened many doors for Storm, who turned pro after he played in the 2000 Masters, where his mother caddied for him. He got to play in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last week and earned a special exemption into the PGA Championship as well.
"So you can't turn that sort of thing down, and here I am at the top of the leaderboard," said Storm, who is playing in his eighth straight tournament.
That holiday to Las Vegas will have to wait another week. But three more rounds like Thursday's and Storm could go there $1.26 million richer.
The PGA Championship is Storm's first major of 2007 and only his sixth major championship overall. He tied for 78th at the 2005 Open Championship and missed the cut in the other four. His scoring average of 77.58 in majors is a far cry from the 65 he opened with Thursday.
Storm, who is ranked 128th in the world, started on the back nine and went out in 31, playing his first four holes in 3 under. He was the only player who didn't make a bogey on a day when Southern Hills played to a par of 74.2857.
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"It was just one of those rounds, really, when I never really thought about things," Storm said. "I just kept doing the things that I was trying to do, which was just enjoy myself."
Storm got things going when he rolled in a 20-footer at the 10th hole, his first of the day. He nearly aced the par-3 11th -- tapping in from 6 inches -- and then left a 15-footer for eagle short at No. 13 but the ensuing birdie moved him to 3-under par.
An 8-iron on the 16th hole produced a "slippery" 8-footer that capped the scoring in his 31. A "lucky" chip-in at the second hole after Storm found the trees to the right with his drive and had to lay up completed the round of 5 under.
The 65 marked only the third time that Storm had broken 70 in 17 rounds since his Open de France victory.
"I am quite sort of tired," he admitted. "But obviously, this is quite a buzz after shooting the score that I have done."
Storm bested some pretty strong company, too. Tiger Woods only managed a 71 while Phil Mickelson shot 4 over and Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk were among those tied at 75. Storm doesn't expect the big names to stay back in the pack for long, though.
"It's probably just the first round of a major and everybody is getting a feel for the place," Storm said. "Obviously, some people have dealt with it better than others and holed a few more putts than others.
"But you know that over four days, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, people like that are going to be there come Sunday. The longer you stay ahead of Tiger Woods, the better."
One round down. Three to go.