Beckman and Verplank set early Disney pace

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MIAMI, Nov 1 (Reuters) American journeyman Cameron Beckman holed a 36-foot birdie putt on his final hole for a share of the early first-round lead at the Disney Classic in Lake Buena Vista today.

Bidding for his second PGA Tour title, Beckman fired a flawless six-under-par 66 on the Magnolia course, one of two venues hosting the 2007 PGA Tour's final event.

Also at six under was US Presidents Cup player Scott Verplank, who rattled up six birdies on the neighbouring Palm course at the Walt Disney World Resort.

South African Tim Clark opened with a 67 on the Magnolia layout to lie one stroke off the pace with Americans Dicky Pride and Vaughn Taylor.

Beckman, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2001 Southern Farm Bureau Classic, set the tone for a memorable day by eagling his opening hole, the par-five 10th.

He then picked up further shots at the 11th, 16th and 17th to reach the turn in five-under 31.

The 37-year-old Minnesota native parred the next eight holes before signing off in style with his long-range putt on the ninth green.

Victory apart, the biggest incentive for many of the players in the Tour's season finale is to secure playing privileges for 2008.

The leading 125 in the final money list automatically earn full exemption for next year and American Ted Purdy held the 125th spot going into this week with earnings of 758,734 dollars.

Hot on his heels were big-hitting J.B. Holmes, with 754,616 dollars, and beefy Kevin Stadler, with 737,276 dollars.

Purdy opened with a 70 on the Palm course, finishing level with compatriot Holmes who played the Magnolia layout. Stadler was among the late starters.

Reuters BJR VP0135

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