Daily Wrap-up: Round 1, Transitions Championship

March 17, 2011
Staff and wire reports

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Paul Casey played bogey-free on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook for a 7-under 64 to take the lead among the early starters at the Transitions Championship on Thursday.


"The state of my game is going in the right direction," Casey said.

Casey made back-to-back birdies late in his round to surge past Nick Watney, who is coming off the biggest win of his career last week in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Watney had seven birdies in 12 holes before missing a few greens toward the end of his round and settling for a 66.

John Senden would have joined Watney except for his second hole of the day.

The Australian opened with a birdie and was in position for another on the par-5 11th. But at the top of his swing with a 3-wood from the light rough, he noticed the ball move and couldn't keep from hitting it. Once he hit his third to the green, he mentioned the slight movement to his caddie and called a rules official. Senden called the one-shot penalty on himself and ended up with a 67.

"I felt like I needed to talk about it because it was bugging me, you know what I mean? And you have to do the right thing with this game of golf, right?" he said.

Defending champion Jim Furyk led a large group at 67 that included Honda Classic winner Rory Sabbatini and Justin Leonard, who believes he is close to ending a two-year victory drought.

For Sergio Garcia, it was his first PGA TOUR round in seven months, and he had few complaints. Garcia played bogey-free -- that's right, it's been since August when he last made a bogey in America -- and opened with a 68, as did 17-year-old Matteo Manassero.

Ryo Ishikawa, the 19-year-old from Japan, opened with a 71.

Because of a 70-minute fog delay at the start of the day, three players failed to finish the first round.

The conditions could not have been much better -- plenty of sunshine, minimal wind and true greens. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is among the strongest on the Florida swing, and the tournament has been attracting strong fields.

Shot of the Day

Mark Wilson's tee shot at the par-3 8th hole hits the flag stick.

The gallery was as large as it has been in years, most of them following a featured group of Watney, Bubba Watson, and PGA champion Martin Kaymer, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking making his debut at Innisbrook.

"It's a fantastic golf course, one of the best I've played in America, to be honest," Kaymer said after a 68. "It's very difficult. You have to hit a lot of good tee shots."

Casey made it look easy at times.

He putted for birdie on all but three holes and took only 28 putts in a clean round, which he described as his best ball-striking round of the year. That would include the Volvo Champions in Bahrain, where he won earlier in the year.

Casey wasn't planning on being at Innisbrook. He won the Shell Houston Open two years ago, but decided to take a few weeks off before the Masters this year.

"If you look at my history in terms of how I've played ... I've always struggled after victories," he said. "I don't know why -- fatigue, whatever it is. But I've performed poorly. So we want to go back to being nice and fresh before the majors."

Watson had a 70 with a new look -- dark sunglasses. He had to withdraw from Doral last week because of a bad sinus infection that caused his eyes to water so much he couldn't see. Watson blames it on pollen, and say he gets it every year he comes to Florida.

"I got into Doral this year, so it started a week early," he said.

He wore the sunglasses to help keep the pollen from getting in his eyes, although he took them off to hit shots. It was a different look for the big hitter with the pink shaft in his driver.

"I look good in anything," Watson said.

Nobody could see anything in the morning, with fog so thick that play was delayed more than an hour until the sun burned it off. It was unlikely everyone could finish the first round.

Watney showed no effects from the hangover of winning at Doral. He was so tired on Tuesday that he stopped after five holes of his practice round, but he came out firing when the tournament began.

"The ball just seemed to be going where I was looking, which is a really good feeling," he said. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but I started off great, and kind of ran out of steam there at the end."

Innisbrook: Thursday
The par-5 1st hole was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.362.
The par-4 16th hole was the toughest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.163.
About the leader
• Paul Casey fired a bogey-free, 7-under 64 in round one of the Transitions Championship in his second start in the event (T42/2008). He leads Nick Watney, Garret Willis, Martin Laird and Scott Stallings by two strokes.
• Casey's 64 is his best score since the second round of The Honda Classic in 2010, where he finished T4. His 64 is also the lowest first-round score in this event in the last five years (Brian Gay/2006). The course record of 62 belongs to Jeff Sluman (Rd.1/2004) and Mark Calcavecchia (Rd.3/2007).
• Revered as a ball-striker's course, Paul Casey made up for hitting just six of 13 fairways in regulation by connecting with 15 of 18 greens (83.3%). He took 28 putts on his way to the 64.
• Casey is making his fourth start of the 2011 PGA TOUR season this week. Of the previous three starts, he has finished no worse than T18, which came at last week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
• Should Casey hold on for the win, he would become the fifth different foreign-born player to win the Transitions Championship. The others: Retief Goosen (2003, 2009), K.J. Choi (2002, 2006), Carl Pettersson (2005) and Vijay Singh (2004).
• Since the event's 2000 inception, the first round leader has only gone on to win once. Following an 8-under 63 in round one in 2002, K.J. Choi held on to claim his second career PGA TOUR victory.
• The only first-round leaders to move on to victory this year on the PGA TOUR have been Jonathan Byrd (Hyundai Tournament of Champions) and Aaron Baddeley (Northern Trust Open).
• In the history of the event, only Carl Pettersson (2005) has made the Transitions Championship title his first on the PGA TOUR.
• Casey's lone PGA TOUR win came at the 2009 Shell Houston Open, though he has amassed 11 international victories, most recently the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour in January.

Ryuji Imada said he would donate $1,000 for each birdie he makes at Innisbrook this week to the American Red Cross Japanese Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. He didn't make any in the first round and shot 74.