Atwal fights back, lies 20th at midway stage of Sony Open

Honolulu (Hawaii), Jan 16 (PTI) Arjun Atwal staged a finecomeback right at the end with three birdies on his last threeholes as he brought home a two-under 68 to occupy the tied20th spot with a total of five-under 135 at the Sony Open, thefirst full field event on the PGA Tour this year.

Atwal, starting on the 10th, opened with a birdie but thebogey on 13th set him back. Again he had a birdie on 18th,only to throw away that advantage with bogeys on fourth andsixth.

Then came his hat-trick of birdies from the seventh. Hisdriving fell in place and missing a few fairways, he found hisway back at the close and coupled with better hitting andputting he was back on the trail.

Last week in the season-opener Hyundai Champions event, awinners-only tournament, he was tied 12th.

The leader was Japan''s Shigeki Maruyama who had anotherfive-under 65 ti find himself atop the leaderboard.

Maruyama took advantage of the early start had among hisefforts a bunker shot that banged into pin and dropped forbirdie on the par-3 seventh to break out of a tie with StuartAppleby, the 18-hole leader, who played Waialae course in theafternoon. The two are at 10-under 130.

As the opening round was washed out by rain, the SonyOpen will be decided by a 36-hole final round.

The 41-year-old Maruyama laughed and said, "My feet. It''sa problem. I''m getting older, and 36 holes is going to be astruggle."

The leaders were two shots clear of Steve Marino (67) andRoland Thatcher (65), whose runner-up finish at Disney in thefinal PGA Tour event last year enabled him to keep his cardand book a trip to Hawaii.

Matt Kuchar, coming off a PGA Tour money title and theVardon Trophy, had a 67 and was at seven-under 133. The groupat 134 includes Boo Weekley (66) and Chris DiMarco (67), whoare looking to turn their fortunes around.

Anthony Kim had the best score of the morning group, a 64that got him back into the picture.

The cut came at three-under 137.

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