In the press events leading up to the 2013 AT&T National, Tiger Woods said he wanted this tournament to be known as one of the most difficult on the PGA Tour schedule. Congressional Country Club mostly held up its end of the bargain in Thursday’s opening round, but Roberto Castro got hot on the front nine on his way to a first-round lead.
Castro, who missed the cut in last week’s Travelers Championship, started his round on the back nine, which meant it didn’t take too long for him to run into the day’s most sinister hole, the par-4 11th. Playing at 489 yards, the pin was tucked dangerously in the back right corner, just four paces from the edge of the green. Several players, including Jason Day and Hunter Mahan, found their way into the water hazard just to the right. Starting your day off with this monster hole would be enough to shake up anybody’s confidence, but Castro didn’t let it.
A short memory is a huge benefit for a golfer, and Castro’s back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13 got his round headed back in the right direction. Another birdie on the par-4 fifth started a streak of three in a row, and Castro never looked back. His round of five-under-par 66 gives him a nice, comfortable cushion to work with, but can he hold on?
This isn’t the first time this season Castro has gotten off to a great start. Keep in mind, he fired an incredible round of 63 to start The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May, only to have a 15-shot swing in round two, giving back all of his lead. He still finished tied for 19th that week, but after such a phenomenal opening round, that’s not the way anybody wants to finish.
It will be interesting to see what Castro does with this cushion tomorrow and into the weekend. With players like Billy Horschel, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker just a few shots behind, he’ll have to continue to perform at a high level to fend them off. Still, this kind of positive momentum can’t do anything but help his chances.