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Atwal matches course record to lead at Wyndham Championship

By Andrew Both

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Tiger Woods's regular practice partner Arjun Atwal showed form the American can only dream about of late when he fired a course record-equaling 61 for a first-round lead at the Wyndham Championship on Thursday.

The Florida-based Indian took advantage of soggy conditions at Sedgefield Country Club that allowed preferred lies and players to fire fearlessly at the pins to take a two-stroke lead over American Brandt Snedeker.

"I didn't really expect a 61 today," Atwal told reporters after sinking three birdies in his last four holes to card a nine-under round.

"I was expecting to play well, because I've been swinging the club nicely, but 61 is pretty special.

"There was no wind, the greens were soft -- all you had to do was hit fairways and it was go from there.

"I saw some of the scoring from the morning and even though it was raining, those guys were still taking it deep, so I knew the course was playing pretty easy."

The 37-year-old played eight tournaments earlier this year on a medical exemption after hurting his shoulder but failed to earn enough to regain his full exempt status on the PGA Tour and only snuck into the tournament after tying for first place in a Monday qualifier.

"If I win I'll go take a month off," he joked.

"I got hot, started making putts," he said of his back nine, which included five consecutive birdies from the 13th hole and bogey on the last.

"I was due one of these days. I put a new driver in the bag yesterday and it came off great and gave me a little extra distance."

Players at the Wyndham Championship are striving to collect late points to qualify in the top 125 for the four lucrative FedEx Cup playoff events, the first of which starts at the August 26-29 Barclays Classic.

(Editing by Ian Ransom)