Atwal Takes Top Spot in New Orleans


2005 Zuric Classic of New OrleansAVONDALE, La. -- Arjun Atwal posted a 4-under 68 on Friday to take the outright lead through two rounds of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Atwal finished 36 holes at 11-under-par 133 for a one-shot lead over J.J. Henry.
Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco uses a little body english to try and coax in a birdie putt Friday.
Chris DiMarco, who shared the opening-round lead with Atwal, carded a 71 to join Tim Clark in a tie for third at 8-under-par 136. Lucas Glover followed at 7-under-par 137.
Atwal parred his first five holes at the TPC of Louisiana, then hit a 6-iron to 8 feet to set up birdie at the par-4 sixth. He made it two in a row at the par-5 seventh when his 4-iron second shot missed the green right. Atwal putted up and converted his second putt for the birdie.
At the par-3 ninth, Atwal landed in a greenside bunker and blasted out to 3 feet. He missed the putt to drop a shot and make the turn at 1-under 35.
Atwal quickly atoned for the mistake at nine with a birdie at the 10th. His next birdie came at the par-4 13th. Atwal drove 40 yards short of the green, then pitched to 10 feet, where he ran home the birdie putt. Atwal added another birdie at No. 14 to reach 11 under par.
Atwal ran into problems at the 16th when he hit his approach into the water. His fourth stopped 14 feet from the hole and he made the putt to save bogey. At the par-5 last, Atwal reached the green with a 3-wood for his second shot and two-putted for birdie and a one-shot edge.
'As the wind started to pick up, I started focusing a little better and hit it closer,' said Atwal. 'I made a few putts. I have been putting really well. It was just steady stuff.'
Atwal, 32, has seven wins internationally, including two on the European Tour. Those two wins, the 2002 Malaysian Open and the 2003 Singapore Masters, came with several of the top players in the world in the field, so Atwal feels he is ready for victory in the U.S.
'It was a good experience,' said Atwal, who is in his final year of full status on the European Tour, but indicated he will let that go in order to play full time on the PGA Tour. 'I think it might carry over here. Hopefully, it does.'
Henry started on the back side and collected his first birdie of the day at the par-4 13th. He found trouble with a bogey at the 16th but recovered with birdies on each of his next two holes.
The 30-year-old added a birdie at the par-5 second and picked up another birdie at the par-4 fifth. Henry then birdied the par-4 eighth for a round of 67.
'I feel real comfortable for some reason on this golf course,' said Henry. 'It really suits my eye. I like the way most of the holes fit.'
DiMarco picked up a birdie at the par-3 third but gave that shot back with a bogey at the sixth. DiMarco responded with an eagle at the par-5 seventh but stumbled again with a bogey at the ninth.
He countered with a birdie at the 10th and added a birdie at the 13th to move to 10 under. DiMarco then bogeyed the 15th but came back with a birdie at the very next hole. He fell off the pace with a double bogey at the closing hole.
Defending champion Vijay Singh shot a 71 to share sixth place with Hank Kuehne and Richard S. Johnson at 6-under-par 138. Padraig Harrington, Hidemichi Tanaka, James Driscoll, Darron Stiles and Sean O'Hair are one-shot further back at 5-under-par 139.
The 36-hole cut came in at 1-over-par 145 with 84 players qualifying for the weekend
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