THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Nick Watney is playing well in any kind of weather.
Watney made birdie for the first time ever on the 14th hole at Sherwood during a strong back nine that carried him to 5-under-par 67 and a two-shot lead Thursday in the World Challenge.
Watney won a month ago in stifling conditions in Malaysia. This day was cool and overcast, with fog rolling off the foothills. No matter. He did well enough to surge past Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley and Graeme McDowell.
Tiger Woods, the tournament host and defending champion, had a number of good par saves and scratched out 70.
The World Challenge doesn’t count as an official win, though it awards world ranking points.
It also isn’t a hit-and-giggle at the end of the year, even with a short field, no cut and lots of holiday cash for all involved. The field is stronger than ever, with 13 players from the Ryder Cup, and it showed in the scores. On a cool, overcast day in the Conejo Valley, only eight shots separated the top (Watney) from Brandt Snedeker,
NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE: In Sun City, South Africa, Bill Haas bogeyed two of the last three holes to slip back into a share of the first-round lead with Nicolas Colsaerts in the 12-player event at Gary Player Country Club
Haas and Colsaerts shot 2-under-par 70s.
Making his first appearance in the $5 million tournament, Haas salvaged boyey with a 10-foot putt on the 18th after fighting his way out of the stubborn Kikuyu grass rough.
Two-time defending champion Lee Westwood was a stroke back along with Paul Lawrie and South African star Louis Oosthuizen.
Charl Schwartzel, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson shot 72.
Haas’s father, Jay, was tied for second at 71 in the seniors’ Champions Challenge. Bernhard Langer topped the eight-man field at 68. Mark Calcavecchia also had a 71.