MADISON, Miss. – Arjun Atwal, Bill Lunde, Ken Duke, Brett Quigley and Bill Haas all took advantage of great early conditions to share the lead at 6-under 66 after the first round of the Viking Classic on Thursday.
“I’ve never played in conditions like this,” said Atwal, who said he was a bit rusty after a five-week layoff since winning the Wyndham Championship. “I’ve always played when it’s softer. But it’s playing perfect, it’s firm. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Only one of the players who headed out late – Brendon de Jonge, who teed off at 11:40 a.m. – was able to join them in a tie for first. De Jonge had six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 seventh to offset two bogeys and make it a 6-way tie.
“It got a little bit tricky out there,” De Jonge said of the swirling winds on the front nine.
Brett Quigley, 152nd on the money list, is one of the players working to lock up a PGA Tour exemption for 2011. The $3.6 million tournament will pay the winner $648,000. Quigley had six birdies over his last eight holes, matching his lowest score of the year.
Nathan Green, Jeff Quinney, Dean Wilson and Charlie Wi were one stroke back at 67, and David Duval and Sean O’Hair were in a group of seven at 68 as 17 players were at least 4 under in the opening round.
Duval has 13 victories on the PGA Tour, but none since the 2001 British Open.
“I feel like I’m playing well enough to win again,” Duval said. “Just a matter of putting all those little pieces together that I failed to do so far.”
Unlike last year, when the tournament was canceled because of heavy rain, the wind and warm, dry weather has left the greens firm and fast. More of the same is forecast over the last three days, which could make play difficult.
“The greens are going to get baked out, baked out in a good way,” Haas said. “They’ll become hard and fast and very difficult to hit, especially if you don’t hit it in the fairway off of the tee.”
Defending champion Will MacKenzie was at 71.