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April 26 2012

6:13 PM

Patient Duke fires 65 to earn lead

Interview: Ken Duke

Following his opening-round 65, Ken Duke talks about his play in the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Fred Albers from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AVONDALE, La. -- The way Ken Duke sees it, patience is the key to prospering at TPC Louisiana.

"You can't hit it four, five feet every hole because there's so many mounds on the greens," Duke explained. "You have to take your 30-foot putt here, 30-foot the putt there and take what it gives you. If you roll one in, you roll one in. I did that a couple times today."

A couple of times, indeed. Duke may have been a tad slow-starting, grinding out four pars before making his first birdie, but the veteran from Arkansas took advantage of his opportunities and was rewarded with a 65 that put him in the lead.

Duke broke out of a tie with his playing partner, Daniel Chopra, when he made a 3-footer for birdie at the par-5 18th to finish at 7 under. Once again, patience was key -- he had 251 to the front of the green and knew he'd need a perfect shot. So he played smart and laid up to set up the tap-in birdie.

"I felt like my wedge game has been pretty good and just want to keep the momentum going instead of trying to go for it and hit it in the water and make a bogey and come out tomorrow trying to fight back," Duke said. "Wanted to keep it in front of us."

Duke, who hit 17 greens and used just 28 putts, said he came to New Orleans well-rested. He also spent time pouring over video of past events at TPC Louisiana -- most likely the 2007 event where Duke finished second -- and the "good vibes" he got appear to be paying off.

"I just think the fans and lot of the people on the board that I got to know and some of the volunteers, it feels like I'm playing in my home course, but it's just a great atmosphere here," Duke said. "They feed you unbelievable. Everything goes on downtown is awesome. I don't know. 

"If you look on the PGA TOUR there's guys that play good in certain spots and seems like this is mine."

Duke has been playing well lots of places this year after regaining his TOUR card by finishing seventh on the Nationwide Tour money list, thanks to a win in the season-ending event. He's had three top-10s in 11 starts, including a tie for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where he played in the final group on Sunday.

Duke had a pretty darn good group on Thursday, too. Not only did he shoot 65, Chopra finished with a 66 and David Hearn came in with a 68.

"What was really good, and I don't know if I've never done it, we talked about it in the scorer's tent, we didn't have a bogey in our group and we had a couple, you know, 4-footers here and there but that was it," Duke said. "It seemed like we were right there in front of it.  That's what happens sometimes when you have a group like this, you kind of feed off each other and keep momentum going."

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