Levin takes early lead at Honda Classic

WATERY WOES::The 17th hole proved to be a tough one for many as more than a dozen tee shots ended up in the water and four players had to wade in to hit the ball


Sat, Mar 05, 2011 - Page 18

American Spencer Levin shot a three-under 67 to take a one-shot lead over five others in the opening round of the wind-swept US$5.7 million PGA Honda Classic on Thursday.

The blustery conditions made play difficult, but Levin handled it better than most in the first round, which was suspended because of darkness with 12 players still on the PGA National Championship course.

“It’s a different kind of golf,” Levin said. “You get in a par mode, really, where you just have to take what the course gives you. If you hit a good drive, you don’t want to get too cute and try to go at a pin, because you know pars are going to be a good score.”

South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun is tied with four others one shot off the lead at two-under 68. Yang, who is the 2009 champion, was one of just eight players in the 144 field who broke par on Thursday.

Australians Stuart Appleby and Greg Chalmers, South African Charl Schwartzel and American Kyle Stranley also shot 68.

Appleby said the key to managing the wind was limiting your mistakes.

“It still doesn’t make you feel comfortable,” he said. “I played all right. I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but I guess just consistent enough where I didn’t get on the wrong side of dropping a shot every 30 minutes, which you easily could do.”

Levin used an early tee off time to finish with four birdies and only one bogey.

Levin, who broke through the top 100 in rankings for the first time last year, lost a playoff on Sunday at the Mayakoba Golf Classic to Johnson Wagner.

“I had a real good week last week,” Levin said. “It’s funny — as a pro, you always remember the one bad shot. And then you listen to amateurs talk and they talk about the one good shot. I hit a bad drive on that playoff hole, but other than that I played great.”

The toughest hole on Thursday was the 186-yard, par-three 17th, where more than a dozen tricky tee shots landed in the water. Four players waded into the shallow water to hit balls, including Brett Quigley who needed three attempts from the drink to get his ball on the green.

Defending champion Camilo Villegas shot a disappointing 79, but still finished ahead of half a dozen players.

Tiger Woods and the world golf’s new No. 1 ranked player Martin Kaymer decided to skip this event.