Five birdies were enough to put Charl Schwartzel among the leaders at the CA Championship. No mistakes is what gave him the lead alone yesterday on a rough-and-tumble day at Doral.
Schwartzel, who got into the elite 68-player field with two victories in his native South Africa at the start of the season, managed to get around the famed Blue Monster without a bogey on his way to a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead in the World Golf Championship event.
Not so fortunate were Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, and Vijay Singh, all of them poised to claim a share of the lead or better until they stepped to the tee on the 443-yard closing hole at Doral that was playing into a wind strong enough to knock the caps off some players.
Singh was in the lead until putting his tee shot into the water and making double bogey, giving him a 68.
Els was tied for the lead until his approach around the palm trees came up short and into the water. He scrambled for a bogey and also wound up with a 68.
Allenby, who had a five-shot lead early in the round when he was at 8 under through 12 holes, finished with four straight bogeys, the last one when he blasted out of a back bunker and saw his ball roll off the green and nearly into the water. He had 68 and found perspective quickly.
“That’s the way things go,’’ Allenby said. “If someone had said you’re going to shoot 4 under, I would have taken it.’’
The south Florida wind, which gives the Blue Monster its fangs, was gusting when the 68-man field teed off and only relented late in the afternoon. Schwartzel got the toughest part of the course — No. 18 — out of the way early because he started on the back nine. He was among the few players who made par on a hole that averaged 4.65 strokes, which was higher than three of the par 5s.
PGA — Heavy rain forced the suspension of first-round play at the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande. Before play was suspended, Skip Kendall holed a 7-iron from 159 yards for eagle on the par-4 10th. Only 18 players began their rounds.
Women’s Australian Open — Defending champion Laura Davies shot a 5 under 68 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round in Melbourne.