Watney shows touch with 68 in Hawaii

Golf

January 04, 2008

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Opening day for the PGA Tour was filled with oddities, starting with Nick Watney leading the Mercedes-Benz Championship yesterday with a 5-under-par 68 that featured no bogeys.

Newcomers are supposed to be at a disadvantage on the Plantation Course at Kapalua with its mammoth greens and severe grain, but Watney kept it simple and sank enough putts to take a one-shot lead over Daniel Chopra and get his 2008 season off to a good start.

Brandt Snedeker was in the lead most of the round until he hit what he must have thought was the perfect tee shot on No. 17. But the ball ended up in waist-high grass, some 100 yards behind Steve Stricker. It turns out his driver had a hairline crack in the top of the face, which played a big part in his double bogey-bogey finish that sent him to a 71.

Scott Verplank was at even-par 73, rattled by a ruling he continued to dispute after his round that cost him a double bogey on the 13th and made him think more about his pre-shot routine than how to play the shot.

With his ball positioned on the slope of the fairway, the wind gusting some 30 mph in his face, his ball moved about a quarter-inch. Verplank did not think he had addressed the ball, but after a discussion with rules official Mike Shea, he was told he caused the ball to move. Verplank played a second ball in protest, but lost the argument after the round.

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