WAC boy Watney feels for Warriors
KAPALUA, Maui » Being a lad from the Western Athletic Conference, Mercedes-Benz Championship first-round leader Nick Watney watched Hawaii's Sugar Bowl encounter against Georgia with great interest.
And while he was disappointed with the outcome for local fans, he believes it shows there should be a playoff in college football to determine a true national champion.
"Yeah, it was a pretty big deal over here," Watney said. "Almost like a national holiday. I definitely watched the game.
"It's unfortunate they let Georgia look like they were playing really, really well right now. I would love to see a playoff because Georgia and USC are playing so well. I'm sure it was disappointing for the folks over here."
Watney, who was a playing partner with Michelle Wie at the 2005 John Deere Classic, had a successful collegiate career at Fresno State earlier this decade. He became the WAC's first three-time player of the year and was the No. 1 golfer in America in 2002 when he won five tournaments his senior season.
The 26-year-old was also the WAC freshman of the year and set Fresno State's single-season scoring record at 70.53. He was a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award in 2002 and a team member of the Palmer Cup.
Conditions were tough
With only 10 golfers breaking par, this marks the third consecutive opening round in which 12 or fewer players managed red numbers.
The wind was a steady 15 to 25 mph with occasional gusts at the top of the hill on the back nine exceeding 30 mph. In these conditions, the most difficult hole was the par-3 eighth with a scoring average of 3.516. At that beautiful location, there were two birdies, 15 pars, 10 bogeys and four double bogeys.
The easiest hole was the par-5 15th with a scoring average of 4.710. There were 14 birdies, 12 pars and five bogeys. No one had an eagle during the opening round, a rarity at the par-73 course.
Chopra on fire
's opening-round 69 continued his hot streak from last season. In his last four tournaments, Chopra managed two top-five finishes that included his first PGA Tour win at the inaugural Ginn sur Mer Classic. He also placed third at the Texas Open.
Born in Sweden, but spending time in India as well, Chopra can speak English, Swedish and Indian fluently. He will break out all three languages during a round if called upon.
"I love the fact that I have two different heritages," Chopra said. "It's funny, when I was playing on the European Tour, and even out here we'd play a practice round with Arjun (Atwal) or Jeev (Singh). And we'll have a Swedish guy playing the same group or whatever, I'll speak Swedish to him and Indian to him and English to my caddie.
"I remember we had some American guy playing with us, and he was like, what the hell just happened?
Not since Sergio Garcia
in 2002 has a first-time winner won the Mercedes-Benz Championship. This year, there are a dozen first-timers in the field, with four of those landing in the top seven.
They are Watney, Chopra, Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker, who could have been tied for the lead had he not finished double bogey, bogey.