Friday, January 4, 2008

Mercedes Benz Championship - Day 1 wrap

AMERICAN Nick Watney fired a five-under-par 68 to seize a one-stroke lead over Daniel Chopra after the first round of the US PGA Tour season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Watney, the winner of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last year, made six birdies against a lone bogey at the Plantation course to grab the lead in a field of 31 winners from last season that did not include world No.1 Tiger Woods or second-ranked Phil Mickelson.

Their absence until a showdown later this month at the Buick Invitational in Torrey Pines dimmed the interest in this event, but big names were still on hand.

Watney began a run of three birdies in a row at the 3rd hole to seize a quick lead, and he answered a bogey at the 7th with a birdie at the par-five 9th hole before adding birdies at the 15th and 17th holes to secure the top spot.

"I'm very happy with it. It's got to be decent," Watney said of his round.

"Most of the guys that have won are playing here. 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..."

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