Bo Van Pelt used a bogeyless opening round at the AT&T National to take the outright lead at 4-under-par at Congressional Country Club. Closely following is Tour veteran Vijay Singh and two relatively unknowns in Brendon de Jonge and Jimmy Walker, who all finished with a 3-under 68.
“You know, I got off to a good start,” said Van Pelt, who finished tied for 24th at last weekend's Travelers Championship. “I thought 10 through 14 I had hit a bunch of good shots and had some good birdie looks and didn't make any, and about a 25-footer for par on 15 that I made, just kind of kept my round going. When you make a putt like that, just kind of gives you a little bit of momentum, feel like you might make some putts today.”
Van Pelt was hot on the greens, finishing with 24 putts -- the second lowest total of the day. After making the turn on the 18th — he began the day on the back nine — he holed out from 93 yards on the first for eagle to drop him to 3-under.
“I actually thought it had kind of spun back in front of the hole, and all of a sudden this guy behind the green started going nuts,” said Van Pelt, who has five top finishes already this year. “Yeah, you never know when those are going to happen, so it's nice to get a deuce.”
He followed up the eagle with a birdie at the 233-yard, par-3 second and finished on seven straight pars.
Singh, who has been struggling of late, missing nearly half of the cuts since May, posted a colorful scorecard that consisted of seven birdies and four bogeys to land him tied for second.
“I played well,” he said after the morning round. “I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of birdies, and finally I made a couple of putts.”
He didn't need the flat stick on No. 10, chipping in for his fourth birdie in five holes, moving him to 4-under on the round.
“It kind of got me excited there,” he said. “I thought I was going to go out and shoot a really low one, and then I bogeyed three in a row after that.”
De Jonge and Walker had a slew of birdies of their own, combining for seven on the day. Walker finished with a wild bogey on the 18th — his only one of the day — to give Van Pelt the outright lead.
Tournament host Tiger Woods finished tied for 30th at 1-over-par after an erratic day in which he hit just 50 percent of the fairways and concluded with 29 putts.
“I didn't hit it bad today,” he said. “I just didn't get a lot out of my round, a couple short game shots on the back nine out of those bunkers, a lot of sand in those bunkers and we have to hit the ball a little bit closer to it, and I didn't do that.”
Woods admitted it was hard to believe that Van Pelt posted a 4-under considering the Open-like difficulty that Congressional is playing, not to mention the scorching heat that makes it difficult to get even wedges to stick near the pin.
“It'll be interesting to see what happens, what they do on the weekend, if it's supposed to be hot again,” said Woods, who won the tournament in 2009. “You can water the greens all you want in the morning, and they're going to obviously dry out as the day goes on. I don't see how this course is going to play easier in the afternoon.”