Castro seizes 1st round lead at AT&T National

Castro seizes 1st round lead at AT&T National
June 27, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Masters champ Adam Scott struggles in Round 1 at AT&T

Roberto Castro sits atop the AT&T National leaderboard after making six birdies on a Congressional Country Club course many competitors described as difficult because of its tight fairways and deep rough.

Castro fired a five-under-par 66 in Thursday’s opening round to lead Billy Horschel, Bud Cauley and Graham DeLaet by two strokes.

“It was a good day,” said Castro, who is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. “I bogeyed the second hole and then made a couple of birdies right after that to get under par and [get] headed in the right direction.”

The last time Castro led a tournament after the first round, things didn’t turn out so well for the 28-year-old. At The Players Championship in May, Castro shot 63 on Thursday only to follow it up with a 78 on Friday.

As humbling as that 15-stroke swing was for Castro, he said he learned a lot about himself. And, perhaps, what he’ll need to do in order to prevent a repeat.

“A lot,” Castro said, asked what he learned at The Players. “I took that, if I play a good round and I play well, I can play as good as anybody. And I took a lot from Friday where I didn’t shoot a good score, but the last six holes I played nicely and settled down.”

Castro’s only bogey Thursday came on No. 11, a 489-yard par-4. His second shot found the water, but after a chip to within two feet of the hole, he managed to avoid a double.

“It was a good bogey,” he said with a smile.

Three players – Billy Horschel, Bud Cauley, Graham DeLaet – are tied for second, two strokes behind Castro. 

Horschel would seem to pose to the biggest threat to make a move Friday. The 26-year-old has six top-10 finishes in his last eight starts, including his first career victory in April at the Zurich Classic and a fourth place tie at the U.S. Open earlier this month. 

Horschel likes his chances, too.

“I won earlier this year at Zurich, which was a big confidence boost,” he said. “Then obviously to play my first major as a pro [the U.S. Open] and finish fourth with a really good field and have a chance to win going into the weekend, you can only draw confidence from that.”

Horschel carded four birdies, but left two more birdie putts on the lip of the cup Thursday.

“This year, I’ve worked hard on my short game and my putting,” he said. “And it pays off because when I do miss one off-line, I can get it up and down on a regular basis. The tougher the course, the better I like it. I don’t like easy ones. I think you should be penalized if you hit a bad shot.”

The day ahead

Jim Furyk is among the golfers to watch Friday.

Furyk birdied three holes and made one bogey to finish with a two-under-par 69 – three strokes behind Castro. Furyk is one of eight players tied for fifth place. 

Considering how difficult the course played on a humid, mostly overcast day, Furyk was pleased with his opening effort. 

“It’s a long, hard golf course,” the 43-year-old said. “I’m surprised, though, with the cloud cover, with the dampness on the golf course, I would have that someone would have shot four or five under, but I’m glad they didn’t.”

Furyk, who made his comments before Castro finished his round,  said one reason the course is playing so tough is because it closely resembles the setup used here for the 2011 U.S. Open.

“It’s hard layout to start with,” he added. “After the U.S. Open came, they didn’t widen out the fairways. Originally, before the U.S. Open was here, these fairways were much wider than they are now. They kept the U.S. Open lines. And the rough isn’t U.S. Open hard, but it’s still quite difficult.

One more reason Furyk figures to have an edge? His longtime caddy, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, lives in Rockville and is a member at Congressional. So, if there’s anyone who knows how to read the greens at the Bethesda club, it’s the guy advising Furyk.

Chip shots

Hole No. 11, the tricky par-4 that almost tripped up Castro, ranked as the hardest all day. Only four players carded birdies while 44 scored bogey and 14 made double-bogey or worse. …Although the area was briefly under a tornado watch, the storms held off during the afternoon and the entire field finished without any delays. …DeLaet, a native of Saskatchewan, describes himself as an Alex Ovechkin fan in his PGA Tour bio. …Horschel on host Tiger Woods being sidelined with an injury: “Tiger is Tiger. He’s just another guy …just another player out there. For me, thinking about someone, how great he is, is just another distraction for me.”