|Nick Watney watches his tee shot on the eighth. He finished the first round in a four-way tie for first. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)|
In the five years Arjun Atwal has been playing practice rounds with Tiger Woods at home in Florida, he learned long ago to stop comparing himself with the world’s No. 1 player.
There was no comparison yesterday in the AT&T National.
Atwal made seven birdies in his round of 4-under-par 66 and was in a four-way tie for the lead at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Woods threw away five shots over the last five holes and opened with a 3-over 73, making it a challenge today just to make the cut.
“It was a very frustrating day on the greens, especially how good I was driving it,’’ Woods said. “I was driving it on a string all day.’’
Atwal had no such complaints after finding himself atop the leaderboard with Nick Watney, Joe Ogilvie, and Byron Nelson winner Jason Day on a tough day at Aronimink, where the pin locations made it difficult to attack the flags.
Playing on a sponsor’s exemption — spending so much time with Woods has its perks — Atwal recovered from a bogey on his opening hole with three straight birdies, all of them inside 12 feet, and kept the mistakes to a minimum.
“Four under, I think, is a great score for me or anybody on this golf course,’’ Atwal said. “I’ll take it every day.’’
Woods, who won the AT&T National last year at Congressional, had his best round of the year off the tee. He hit driver on all but three holes on the tree-lined course with rough nearly as thick as it was in the US Open at Pebble Beach. He just didn’t give himself that many birdie chances, and when he did, he couldn’t make any.
His only two birdies were from 4 feet on the opening hole, and a 60-foot putt from the back of the green on the par-3 fifth.
LPGA — Na Yeon Choi took a step toward forgetting what happened a week ago.
After missing an LPGA cut for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years, Choi changed putters to shoot a 7-under 64 and take a one-shot lead in opening round of the Jamie Farr
“After that, I feel I need to trust myself more,’’ she said. “So I changed putters for a good setup.’’
It sure worked. She needed just 26 putts in a career-best round that included eight birdies and a bogey at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
The South Korean had made 64 cuts in a row dating to 2007 before failing to get to play on the weekend at last week’s LPGA Championship. This year, she was 10 for 10 in cuts made, including a tie for second at the State Farm.
Canadian Alena Sharp, celebrating Canada Day, was a shot back after a 65.
Marisa Baena, playing even though she says she has officially retired from competitive golf, was at 66 along with Christina Kim and Switzerland’s Karine Icher.
Defending champ Eunjung Yi had a 71, as did Paula Creamer.
European — Robert-Jan Derksen shot an 8-under 63 in Versailles to take a three-shot lead after the first round of the French Open.
The Dutchman, who missed tying the course record by one stroke, leads a group of three players that includes defending champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, and Frenchman Jean Van de Velde.