Six-way tie at Viking Classic

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A six-in-row, birdie blitz has put John Mallinger into a six-way tie for the first-round lead at the PGA Tour’s Viking Classic.

A six-in-row, birdie blitz has put John Mallinger into a six-way tie for the first-round lead at the PGA Tour’s Viking Classic in Madison County, Mississippi.

Chasing a maiden victory on the Tour, the 31-year-old American took full advantage of the rain-softened conditions and preferred lies on the fairways at Annandale Golf Club on Thursday to card a seven-under-par 65 on one of Mississippi’s steamy hot mid-summer days.

Mallinger sparked his birdie run at the par-four ninth before finishing his round level on 65 with compatriots Tim Petrovic and Bobby Gates, Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, Australian veteran Peter Lonard and Korean Kang Sung-hoon.

“It was just a good stretch of holes,” Mallinger said of his birdie charge afterwards “I made a lot of putts today. Nine birdies and a couple of bogeys. I played solid.

“It’s always good to get off to a good start. I’ve been playing well, but I just haven’t been scoring that well.”

Mallinger, whose best PGA Tour finish was a runner-up spot at the 2009 Milwaukee Championship, relished being able to lift, clean and replace his ball on fairways left muddy by overnight rain.

“You get the ball in your hand, and it’s a little bit easier,” he said. “You can be a little more aggressive at the flag. We’re getting a lot of mud on the balls.”

De Jonge, who tied for third in last year’s Viking Classic, recorded seven birdies in a flawless display after being grouped with Americans Reavie and Tommy Gainey for the first two rounds.

“The whole group played well,” said de Jonge, who shared seventh place at last week’s John Deere Classic. “We definitely helped each other. We made a bunch of birdies in the group, and that kept the momentum going.

“I played nicely today. I kept it in play most of the day and gave myself a lot of birdie looks. It’s rained just about every day so the course is going to be soft and the scoring is going to be good.”

With the Tour’s big guns all away at The Open in England, Gainey, at 42nd, is the highest-ranked player on the 2011 PGA Tour’s money list at Annandale and he fired an opening 67 to put himself in contention heading into Friday’s second round.

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