DORAL, Fla. — A storm packing 50 mph gusts toppled two TV towers, uprooted 17 young palm trees and sent the monster scoreboard at the 18th hole crashing to the ground Thursday at Doral.
When the Cadillac Championship resumed, the leaderboard featured a familar name to local golf fans — Davis High graduate Nick Watney.
The former Blue Devil standout is quickly establishing himself as one of the world’s top players with a season that has featured four top-10 finishes in his first four 2011 starts. Watney, who finished second at this event in 2009, completed only 16 holes on Thursday before the round was suspended for darkness and enters Friday’s play in a tie for second place.
Hunter Mahan is on top at 7-under, but has played only 11 holes, while six players are tied with Watney at 5-under. The only second-place golfer who finished his round is Charley Hoffman.
When the raging wind was replaced by an eerie calm, Watney took advantage. A string of four birdies in six holes put him near the lead, and he finished with three straight pars.
Mahan birdied his opening four holes and kept right on rolling until the opening round was suspended. He didn’t miss a green and didn’t come close to a bogey in his 11 holes.
“I guess with that storm, it brought some tranquility to the golf course,” Mahan said. “Because there was just no wind. There was nothing out there.”
There were plenty of low scores — but not from Tiger Woods.
In the group that generated most of the buzz and attracted the largest crowd, Woods and Phil Mickelson scrapped their way around Doral, while U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell kept up with his great short game.
Mickelson made a birdie late in his round and was at 2 under through 15 holes, one shot ahead of Woods and McDowell.
The other featured group — the top three players in the world ranking — lived up to their billing. Martin Kaymer, in his second week as the new No. 1, opened with three straight birdies and is tied with Watney at 5-under through 10 holes. Match Play winner Luke Donald (No. 3) birdied the 10th hole to join them at 5-under, while Lee Westwood (No. 2) was at 4-under.
The other players in that group at 5-under with still more golf to play in the first round are 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, 48-year-old Vijay Singh and Matt Kuchar.