Ogilvy takes 1-shot lead at Mercedes-Benz Championship


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

KAPALUA, Maui » The wind and the rain that call Kapalua home in the winter had little effect on the 33-man field of the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Led by Geoff Ogilvy's 6-under 67, the PGA Tour's best got into the red early and often, as 22 of the players shot even par or better during yesterday's opening round of the 2009 season.

After playing three tournaments the past five weeks, including the Australian Open, Ogilvy had little or no rust as he fired one of only two bogey-free rounds to take a one-shot lead over Ernie Els, Kenny Perry and Johnson Wagner.

“;Three weeks isn't enough to get rusty,”; Ogilvy said. “;Two months is. I was playing well before Christmas, so it's not surprising I'm playing well now. I didn't do anything amazing, but I didn't do anything badly. I just played nice and when I had to get something up and down, luckily most of the up and downs were for birdies and I got them up and down.”;

Ogilvy was locked in a back-nine battle with Els, who was 6 under after 11 holes, but finished 1 over par over the final eight. A missed birdie from 10 feet by Els at the last had the South African a little angry with himself, despite being only one shot back.

Playing partner Perry also shot a 5-under 68 to stay close after the opening 18 holes. For a man who once said the Plantation Course nearly ruined his game, the 48-year-old American had a solid opening round and said as much after exiting the scorer's tent.

“;Yeah, I was trying to hang onto his shirttails for a while,”; Perry said of his round with Els. “;He's the Big Easy. He made the front nine look awfully easy. It's nice. When he's playing well, sometimes the partner will tag along.

“;Shoot, I was fighting and struggling and scrapping, and we both made eagle on that par-5 fifth hole, and that really turned my round around. It was nice. With all the wind and the rain, I just felt unbalanced out there. But I'm keeping up with all of these young guys. I'm 10 years older than Ernie.”;

As well as the top four golfers played, they hardly removed themselves from the rest of the field. Led by Davis Love III, another four golfers came in from the wind and the rain at 4-under 69. Joining Love in a tie for fifth are Steve Lowery, who was paired with Parker McLachlin, Sean O'Hair and Ryuji Imada.

Imada was briefly tied for the lead after birdieing seven holes in a row, but back-to-back bogeys down the stretch dropped him two shots off the pace. Rounding out the top 10 are Boo Weekley and D.J. Trahan, who each shot 3-under 70s.

Early on, it appeared Love and Els were going to run away and hide. Love led for almost 2 hours before Els caught and passed him with a stellar 5-under 31 on the front. Els, who holds the course record here at 31 under par, was mad at himself for letting his lead slip away over the closing holes.

“;I had a good round going today,”; Els said. “;I had the perfect start. So to be 5 under, I would have taken it before I teed off. I feel a little hot still under the collar yet.”;

When asked if anyone would ever break his 31-under effort, Els cooled off a bit and said, “;I guess you can never say never, but I don't think so. What is that, an average of what, 6 or 7 under, a bit more?”;

A reporter said 66 and Els replied, “;Yeah, it takes a lot. We had good weather, though.”;

Such was not the case yesterday, but it wasn't as bad as 2007, when the wind howled for days. As Els put it, “;With wide fairways and the tradewinds blowing, it was designed around the tradewinds. If you play it the correct way, you can have some fun on the course. It's one of those courses where the longer hitters can have some fun.”;

There were plenty of big drives to go around yesterday. O'Hair had the longest, twice knocking the ball 412 yards—at the par-4 first and 17th holes. J.B. Holmes hit one 409 yards at the par-4 12th and Love managed a 408-yarder at the par-5 closing hole.

“;Obviously, I had a good score in windy, rainy conditions,”; Love said. “;I putted well. I didn't make them all, but I made enough to get a good score. I didn't play the par 5s very pretty, but I got some birdies in some other places and hit the ball pretty solid for the most part of the day.”;


Mercedes-Benz Championship

At Kapalua Resort, The Plantation Course, par 73
First Round

Geoff Ogilvy33-3467
Johnson Wagner35-3368
Ernie Els31-3768
Kenny Perry33-3568
Davis Love III32-3769
Steve Lowery36-3369
Sean O'Hair35-3469
Ryuji Imada34-3569
Boo Weekley35-3570
D.J. Trahan35-3570
Zach Johnson38-3371
K.J. Choi35-3671
Anthony Kim35-3671
Will MacKenzie36-3672
Dustin Johnson37-3572
Greg Kraft34-3872
Richard S. Johnson37-3572
Brian Gay36-3672
Carl Pettersson36-3672
Trevor Immelman38-3472
Adam Scott35-3873
Vijay Singh38-3573
J.B. Holmes35-3974
Stewart Cink38-3674
Justin Leonard38-3674
Camilo Villegas38-3674
Chez Reavie36-3975
Cameron Beckman39-3776
Parker McLachlin40-3777
Ryan Palmer35-4378
Andres Romero39-3978
Marc Turnesa39-4079
Daniel Chopra39-4079