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Maggert Makes Early Move at Buick Challenge

Jeff Maggert won more money in a single event last season than he has in 22 starts this year. Not to say Maggert's had a dismal 2000; he's earned five top 10s and nearly $850K in cash. But the 10-year PGA Tour veteran is still in search of his first victory since his sophomore-win at the 1999 Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship.
Maggert could collect triumph No. 3 at this week's Buick Challenge in Pine Mountain, Ga. The 36-year-old Texan shot a personal-season-best 9-under-par 63 to take a three-shot lead over Joey Sindelar, Paul Azinger and Charles Raulerson.
Beginning on the back nine, Maggert made the turn in 4-under-par 32; and then nearly holed his second shot at the par-5 2nd. His approach came to a screeching halt after hitting the flagstick; resting three feet from the hole. The ensuing eagle, just his fourth of the year, gave Maggert a share of the lead at 6-under-par.
Another near-hole-out at the par-4 4th, his 13th of the day, gave Maggert sole possession of the lead at 7-under. He then added a pair of birdies at the 7th and 8th holes to move to 9-under, three clear of his closest opponent.
It's hard to say Maggert is suffering through a winless drought. He's played in just 41 events since earning a million-dollar paycheck by defeating Andrew Magee at the '99 Match Play; compare that to the 130 starts he made between victories No. 1 and No. 2.
On the other hand, Sindelar is definitely in the 'winless-drought' category. It's been a decade since Sindelar hoisted a Tour trophy; that was at the 1990 Hardee's Golf Classic.
Sindelar was in position to break his dry spell at this year's BellSouth Classic. The 42-year-old led after 36 holes, but fell into a tie for 5th following a third-round 74. He finished in that very position as the final round was cancelled due to weather.
Thursday, Sindelar carded six birdies and no bogeys for an opening 66. Currently 130th on the money list, the six-time Tour winner is trying to avoid Q-School.
Sindelar first earned his way onto the PGA Tour via the Qualifying Tournament in 1983. He's hasn't been back since.
Likewise, Raulerson has been to Q-School only once in his short career, that in 1993. He earned his '00 Tour card by finishing 125th on the 1999 season-ending money list. This year, Raulerson stands 159th in earnings. He's missed the cut in eight of his last nine starts.
Azinger doesn't have to worry about his 2001 Tour card. The 1993 PGA Champion won his first start of the season at the SONY Open in Hawaii. Azinger is one of 35 players who have earned over a million dollars this year. At 23rd on the money list, `Zinger has his eyes locked on the season finale, the $5-million Tour Championship.
Seven players are tied for 5th place at 5-under-par. Among them are Ted Tryba (140th on the money list), Cameron Beckman (158th), Perry Moss (211th) and Brent Schwarzrock (219th).
David Duval, making his first start since walking off the course due to an ailing back at the International, is five shots off the lead after opening in 4-under-par 68.