Watney leads at Mercedes-Benz

Nick Watney fired a five-under-par 68 to take a one-shot lead after Thursday’s first round of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Nick Watney fired a five-under-par 68 to take a one-shot lead after Thursday’s first round of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Watney carded six birdies, including three in a row on numbers three to five and took sole possession of the lead with his final birdie at the par-four 17th.

Sweden’s Daniel Chopra is alone in second place following a four-under 69 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, which is the lone par-73 layout on the PGA Tour.

Tied for third in the 31-player field are reigning US Open champion Angel Cabrera, Jonathan Byrd and Aaron Baddeley, who each signed for a three-under 70. Baddeley overcame two early bogeys with four consecutive birdies beginning at number 14.

Canadian Mike Weir, the winner of the 2003 Masters, is tied at 71 with Brandt Snedeker, who carded seven birdies and held the lead at 5-under before stumbling down the stretch. Snedeker double-bogeyed the par-four 17th hole before completing the round with his third bogey of the day.

Stephen Ames of Canada, who won the 2007 season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic, is in a three-way tie for eighth with Steve Flesch and Rory Sabbatini at one-under 72.

At number three in the world, Jim Furyk is the highest-ranked player in the event, which lacks Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – the top two players in the world.

Furyk, who won here in 2001 and is coming off a 2007 season in which he had one win and eight top-10 finishes in 23 events, carded a one-over 74.

Defending champion Vijay Singh also is at one over. Like Furyk, he had just one birdie and two bogeys in his opening round. The Fiji native has always played well here, finishing second in 2004 and 2006 to go along with a fifth-place showing in 2005.

World number five Steve Stricker, a surprising repeat winner of the tour’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, is among five players at even par. Stricker is appearing in this event for the first time since finishing 25th in 2002.

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