Guanajuato, Mexico (SportsNetwork.com) - Peter Malnati and Casey Wittenberg opened up with matching 7-under 65s in Thursday's first round and the duo leads by two shots at the El Bosque Mexico Championship.
Malnati and Wittenberg have two wins each on the Web.com Tour. Malnati's last win was a 4-shot victory at the Brasil Champions in mid-March, while Wittenberg earned both of his wins in 2012.
Kevin Tway, Luke List, Russell Surber, Patton Kizzire, Wes Roach and Oliver Goss are all tied for third at 5-under 67.
One shot further back are Mathew Goggin, Shane Bertsch, Henrik Norlander, Stephan Jaeger, Brett Stegmaier, Smylie Kaufman and Sebastian Cappelen. They all shot 4-under 68s and are tied for ninth at El Bosque Country Club.
Malnati, who played the back nine first, was up and down throughout most of his first nine, although he got off to a good start with birdies on 10 and 13 to get into red numbers early.
The 27-year-old gave one of those shots back with a bogey on 14, but he rebounded nicely two holes later with his third gain on No. 16.
Malnati had an interesting bogey at the par-5 18th, one that was certainly an adventure.
"I hit my drive in the water, dropped, hit my next shot in the water, dropped again and hit it over the green," Malnati said. "I knew it was going to be a difficult up-and-down for seven and then, swish, it flopped right in the hole for a six."
Malnati then exploded on his closing nine. He finished up with six birdies over his final nine holes to vault into a share of the lead.
Wittenberg also got off to a nice start to go along with a strong finish. The 30-year-old rolled in two birdies over his first four holes at two and four.
Following a pair of pars on five and six, Wittenberg got to 3-under with a gain at the par-3 seventh. That shot was short-lived, however, as he tripped to his first and only bogey on No. 9.
Making the turn at minus-2, Wittenberg got his dropped shot back with a birdie on 10. He later ran off a trio of birdies from No. 13 to get to 6-under. Wittenberg ended strong with a birdie at the par-5 last to join Malnati at the top of the learderboard at the end of the day.
"In the past when I've come down here, I was playing a lot better than I am now," Wittenberg admitted. "It's golf and I've done it for 10 years now. I've got to dig myself out of the hole that I put myself in. Hopefully this is something I can build on going forward."
NOTES: Wittenberg won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the Wichita Open in 2012 ... Malnati's other victory came at the 2013 News Sentinel Open ... His win at the Brasil Champions was Malnati's only top-10 finish in six events this season. He has also missed two cuts ... Wittenberg's best finish this season was a tie for 43rd at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship. He has missed two cuts in five events ... Malnati currently holds the top spot on the Web.com Tour money list.