It's all about timing at the Australian Open

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2004 Australian Open | Round One | 25 Nov 2004
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Just when it looked safe for the golfing scribes in the media centre to wrap their story for the day around a Greg Chalmers lead, the afternoon conditions on day one at the Australian Open became even better than those of the morning and the scores improved accordingly.

Chalmers, who had finished his round not long after midday, was well and truly gone from the golf course when Richard Green stood over his long iron second to the par five last. Just a few seconds later his ball had come to rest fifteen feet from the hole and five minutes later he rolled it in for eagle to join Chalmers in the lead. Almost at the same time, 23-year-old Kurt Barnes from Muswellbrook in New South Wales, had competed his third birdie in succession at the par three 15th to take the outright lead at five under par.

Just two weeks ago Barnes recorded the most significant win of his life when he survived a head to head battle with South Australian Gary Simpson to win the Toyota Queensland PGA Championship. That good form continued here, despite an early hiccup at the par four third when he double bogeyed, and at the very next when he took a bogey at the par three 4th. He was two over at that point, but seven birdies in the next eleven holes saw him take the lead and the young man, whose confidence and self belief are no doubt at an all-time high at present, was in front in the Australian Open. Barnes would go on to birdie the last and take a two shot lead. Nine birdies in one round at the Australian Golf Club takes some doing at any time. That he was able to do it in the first round of the Australian Open adds considerably more merit to his achievement.

As Barnes was birdieing his way around the course, Rod Pampling was finishing his round, a birdie at the last seeing him complete four for the day and with no bogeys he was closed with a 67 for four under and one back of Barnes.

Ricard Green has had a brilliant year in Europe, his best ever in terms of financial returns. He did not win but his amazing consistency has yielded him six top tens, three of which were runner up placings. Green has played well previously at the Australian Open, finishing third at the 2000 Kingston Heath Australian Open. Green pays a lot of credit for his improved year to his caddy Stuart Dryden.

Earlier this year Green said of Dryden, “Stuart has eighteen years experience on tour working for the likes of Ronan Rafferty back when he won the Order of Merit and for Howard Clark when he was playing well, and has worked Ryder Cups so he has seen the pressure cooker of golf. Prior to Stuart, I’d never really had anybody of that experience on the bag, but he has been of tremendous assistance to me and every call that he makes on the course or even just in his general thinking on the game, I have grown to have tremendous faith in. So that, plus a couple of other decisions in relation to equipment and personal issues have really helped in getting me to where I am now.”

Pampling has escaped a lot of the attention this week but it is hard to ignore his brilliant season on the USPGA Tour including his win at the International. There is little doubt that he is now capable of winning the Australian Open. Whether he will or not remains to be seen but he has placed himself well after day one.

Thanks to the turnaround in afternoon conditions there are a lot of players under par but very few got the better of the Australian. Colombian Camillo Villegas, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Anthony Gilligan and Brett Rumford are at two under and looming as the tournament heads into day two.

The defending champion Peter Lonard was neither good nor bad in his first round of 71. He has not done a lot of good but neither has he done much damage.

The youngest player in the field, 17-year-old Jason Day was around in 72 at his very first Australian Open and he can be well pleased with his effort. With a score of somewhere around five or six over looking to make the cut tomorrow Day is well placed to, at worst, be around for the weekend.

He is not the leading amateur after day one, that honour going to 19-year-old New Zealander Travis O’Connell.

But the honours of the day go to the first round leader Barnes who took advantage of the afternoon’s favourable conditions to lead after day one.

Photo – Anthony Powter/Snapeture Sports

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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