American Mark Wilson took advantage of a rain-softened layout and accessible pin positions to move into a share of the lead at the weather-hit Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Monday as the 2013 PGA Tour finally got under way.
Wilson fired a flawless four-under-par 69 in much improved conditions at the Kapalua Resort for the long-delayed first round after play had been abandoned on the previous three days because of strong gusting winds.
With the elite, season-opening event cut to 54 holes and set for a rare Tuesday finish, Wilson recorded two birdies on each nine to finish level with compatriots Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney.
The big-hitting Johnson, who booked his place in the winners-only field of 30 with victory at last year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, was a little frustrated after three-putting three times.
“You would think that it could have been a little lower,” Johnson told reporters after taking a total of 33 putts. “I had three three-putts, and two of them were from pretty close to the hole.
“It was really hard to get the speed down in this wind. But overall it felt good. I played a pretty good, solid round of golf.”
Americans Rickie Fowler, Ben Curtis, Brandt Snedeker and Masters champion Bubba Watson, plus Swede Carl Pettersson, opened with 70s before grabbing a quick lunch and then setting off for the second round as the breezes began to strengthen.
Weather permitting, a marathon 36 holes had been planned for Monday, followed by 18 holes to finish on Tuesday.
Fowler was especially delighted to complete 18 holes, having twice struck the “first shot” of the 2013 PGA Tour at Kapalua before finally getting into the record books with his third attempt on Monday.
“Yeah, I got my third start but only got one round in,” he smiled, having hit the opening tee shot on both Friday and Sunday before all scores were scrapped as winds continued to gust well above 40mph (64.4 kph) across the Plantation Course.
“One counts. It was nice to finally get out and get a round in the books. Hit some good shots, a few rough ones, but crazy things can happen when it’s going like this.”
Asked what he expected for the afternoon at Kapalua, Fowler replied: “If the wind stays the way it is right now, I feel like it is scorable. You can take advantage of a few holes.
“There are a couple (of holes) that are playing tough out there but if you hit the ball well, drive it in the fairway and you should be able to make some birdies.”
Defending champion Steve Stricker, who won last year’s title by three shots, carded a 71 to end the first round two strokes off the pace, along with fellow Americans Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, J.J. Henry, Charlie Beljan and Englishman Ian Poulter.