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The New Zealand No 1 carded a disappointing two over par 74 in the opening round to lie in a share of 96th, 10 shots off the lead. He parred the first 12 holes before bogeys at 13 and 18 to leave him 10 shots behind leader Charlie Wi of South Korea and needing to shoot a low score in the second round just to make the cut.
Lee started the tournament 164th on the PGA Tour money list with US$359,111 and needs a top-three finish to climb into the top 125 to retain his card for 2013. A place in the top 150 would be good enough to earn conditional status next year but Lee would need to improve his standing considerably over the next three days.
The alternative is heading to qualifying school to remain on the PGA Tour.
South Korean Charlie Wi leads the Florida tournament after carding a 64.