Nick Watney Takes First Round Lead At World Challenge

By Les Bailey
Nick Watney Tiger Woods Rory McIlroy
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

On an uncharacteristically cool, overcast afternoon in Southern California, Nick Watney fired a -5 under par 67 on Thursday to take the first round lead at the World Challenge Presented By Northwestern Mutual. After a slow start on the front nine, Watney picked up a birdie at the par four 9th hole on the par 72 Sherwood Forest Country Club golf course, and went bogey free on the back nine. He added four birdies to take a two shot lead over Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, and Jim Furyk.

Most of the Ryder Cup team showed up from Team USA along with a few from Team Europe to play in the annual Tiger Woods charity event that generates money for the Tiger Woods Foundation. The host went out in even par, and picked up a couple of birdies on the inward nine to card a -2 under 70 for the afternoon, and is three strokes off of the pace. He is the defending champion. Woods indicated the weather was weird for this time of year, and that although he was sweating underneath his sweater, he was afraid he would be cold if he took it off.

Keegan Bradley held the lead for most of the day, and at four under par, he put up his only bogey of the day at the difficult 18th hole, and Watney made birdie. That was a two stroke swing that would give Watney the lead by himself. McDowell picked up a bogey at 14, but birdied out from the 17th tee to retain a piece of second place. Furyk got a lone bogey on the front nine at the third hole to go with four birdies on the back nine.

Bo Van Pelt and US Open Champion, Webb Simpson ended their day in a tie with the host at -2 under par. Van Pelt had a roller coaster ride with six birdies, a bogey at the ninth hole, and a snowman on the par five 11th. Simpson picked up three birdies throughout his round, but made bogey at 18 for his 70.

A host of players are at one under par including, Jason Day from Australia, Ian Poulter, and Americans, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, and Steve Stricker. Stricker has shown up with a mallet putter, but continues to struggle with the flat stick. Missing on the low side just as he did at Medinah in September.

Dustin Johnson and Zack Johnson were on the bogey train all day, and are 2 over par, tied for 16th place. FedEx Cup Champion, Brandt Snedeker had one birdie, four bogeys, an eagle and a double bogey for a three over 75, and good enough for last place. It just wasn’t Snedeker’s day.

There were several questions on the day for Bradley and Simpson regarding the Great Putter Debate. Bradley seems to have softened on the subject, and along with Simpson, have indicated they will be ready with standard putters if and when the rule is invoked.

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