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November 28 2012

8:00 PM

LeBrun leads, Blanks one back

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Despite a nagging shoulder injury, Kris Blanks is one off the lead after the first round at PGA West.

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By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- One down, five to go.

Q-school is a marathon and not a sprint, but Steve LeBrun put himself in good shape with an opening-round 64 on the Stadium Course to take a one-shot lead after the first round at PGA West.

Only the top 25 (and ties) after six rounds will receive PGA TOUR cards for 2013 with the rest earning Web.com Tour status or conditional status on that tour.

On a pristine day in the desert, LeBrun was flawless, making eight birdies and no bogeys on the typically more difficult of the two courses.

LeBrun spent this past season on the Web.com Tour, where he had four top 10s and made 14 of 21 cuts. His best finish was a fourth-place at the Miccosukee Championship.

Among the four players tied for a second is Kris Blanks, who despite nagging injuries since mid-summer managed to be mistake-free.

Prior to the second stage of q-school, Blanks hadn’t played competitively since the John Deere Classic in July because of a shoulder injury.

During that time, Blanks played only a half-dozen rounds and most of those were with buddies at his home course in Jupiter, Fla., where more beers were consumed than strokes counted.

At one point, Blanks’ shoulder was so bad he could hit an 8-iron just 130 yards. He’d routinely play from the forward tees just to avoid being frustrated.

“I just didn’t have the ability to swing with any amount of speed,” said Blanks, who got three different opinions on his shoulder before visiting Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed a daily routine of rehab exercises. “If I did, it would hurt.”

If there was an upside to being sidelined, it was that Blanks spent many of his waking hours working on his putting -- one of the weaker areas of his game -- on the synthetic green in his backyard.

“I couldn’t beat balls and do the things I needed to do until I got things calmed down in my shoulder,” Blanks said.

That extra time spent on his putting paid off in the opening round Wednesday with Blanks at one point making six birdies in an eight-hole stretch on the Stadium Course.

”It’s definitely great to get a low round under your belt,” he said. “It affords you the luxury of not having to be so precise the next five rounds.”

That same luxury was also afforded to Robert Karlsson and Erik Compton, who are 6 and 5 under, respectively, after the first round.

“Sometimes in a TOUR event you’re 10 back before you even tee off,” Compton said. “Here, you have to get a piece of the pie every day.”

Other notables in good shape after the first round include Vaughn Taylor, Joseph Bramlett and Daniel Chopra. All three are tied for 20th at 4 under.

Ross Fisher is among a large group another stroke back, while Camilo Villegas, Billy Horschel, Billy Hurley III, Heath Slocum, James Nitties and Rod Pampling are among those at 2 under.

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