American Watney takes control at Kapalua
KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - American Nick Watney benefited from a late stumble by compatriot Brandt Snedeker to snatch a one-shot lead in the Mercedes-Benz Championship first round on Thursday.
Making his debut in the winners-only event, Watney upstaged some of the biggest names in the game by firing a five-under-par 68 on the hilly Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort.
The 26-year-old Californian piled up six birdies, his last with a 30-foot putt on the 17th to take the outright lead, against a lone bogey in blustery, wet conditions to take charge of the 2008 PGA Tour's opening event.
"I putted very well and I kept it really simple," Watney told reporters after ending the day a stroke in front of Swede Daniel Chopra.
"I just hit to a lot of the middle of the greens and tried to take what they gave me.
"It was a very steady day and I'm very pleased but, at the same time, it's the first day of the first tournament of the year, so we've got a long ways to go."
Australian Aaron Baddeley birdied four of the last five holes for a 70, matching U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and American Jonathan Byrd in the tournament which brings together the title-holders from the previous PGA Tour season.
Snedeker, battling to shrug off a lingering bout of flu, dropped three shots in the last two holes for a 71 to finish level with 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir.
Canadian Stephen Ames, who struck the opening drive of the season, American left-hander Steve Flesch and South African Rory Sabbatini were a further stroke back after carding 72s. Continued...