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March 23, 2008

CHARLESTON, S.C. – With three players in the top 10 and one other in the top 20, No. 15 South Carolina holds a four-stroke lead after the first round at the Hootie at Bulls Bay. With a first-round 280 (-4), the Gamecocks reported four scores at even par or better, led by junior Mark Silvers III, who shot 69 (-2) to stand in fourth place, two strokes off the tournament lead.

Starting on the 10th hole, Silvers followed a bogey on 13 with back-to-back birdies and made the turn at -1. Birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 got his final nine off to a solid start. He bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole to fall back to -2, but delivered for pars down the stretch to hold his spot in the top five.

Junior Patrick Cunning and senior Mark Anderson carded matching rounds of 70 (-1) to hold a share of seventh place in the tournament. Cunning kicked off his round with a birdie on the par-5 13th hole but made the turn at even par after a bogey on the par-4 15th. After falling back with a bogey on the par-5 second, he answered with a birdie on the next hole. A birdie on No. 9 brought him back under par for the round. Anderson continued his solid play from last weekend, carding four birdies, including three in the final six holes to finish in the top 10.

Despite a double bogey on the opening hole, Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational champion George Bryan IV recovered to turn in a 71 (E) and grab and share of 16th place. The sophomore fell back to +3 through six holes before back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 got him back on track. After a bogey on the par-4 18th, Bryan made the turn at +2. After steadying his play in his final nine holes, two birdies in the final four holes got him back to even for the round.

Senior Warren Thomas was the lone Gamecock over par after he battled over his second nine holes to finish at 75 (+3) and in 53rd place. The round got off to a good start for Thomas, who birdied the par-5 10th. After a bogey on 18 had him at even through nine holes, a triple-bogey on the par-5 second set him back. Thomas had the round back to +3 after back-to-back birdies on Nos. 7 and 8, but a bogey in the final hole wrapped up his round.

South Carolina has a four-stroke lead over Augusta State and holds a five-shot advantage over No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Clemson, who are tied for third. No. 8 auburn and Lamar are knotted in fifth place at 286. Lamar’s Justin Harding tops the individual leader board at 67 (-4). He has a one-shot edge on Augusta State’s Keith Guest and Webb Simpson of Wake Forest.

In Monday’s round, the Gamecocks will tee off from No. 10 again with times beginning at 10:40 a.m. Auburn and Virginia complete South Carolina’s threesomes.