Rookie verses the veterans at Australian PGA

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2004 Australian PGA Championship | Round Two | 03 Dec 2004

The story of day two at the Cadbury Schweppes PGA Championship belonged to one of the new recruits to the Australian professional golf scene, James Nitties.

The 22-year-old from Newcastle, who had the more difficult afternoon conditions yesterday, relished the calmer and more user friendly conditions on day two as he set out at 7:00am today. Four and a half hours later he had 65 to his name and the lead in Australian PGA Championship.

“I’m very happy, is probably the simplest way to explain it,” he said he said after his round. “To be leading in the second round and actually in contention in one of Australia’s major events is a great feeling.”

Nitties, who represented Australia at the Eisenhower in October, turned pro the week of the Toyota Queensland PGA Championship in mid-November and has made the cut in all four events in which he has played. He was 20th at the Queensland PGA, 11th at the NSW Open and 41st last week at the Australian Open and now here. He has experienced the rigours of contention in professional tournament golf previously, in fact playing in the last group with Robert Allenby at last year’s MasterCard Masters where he did not disgrace himself, eventually finishing 8th.

“As an amateur however,” he said, “we were not expected to do well when in contention, but now that I am a professional hopefully I can play well at the weekend.”

When asked how he would compare yesterday and today’s rounds he said they were quite similar. “I struggled a little early yesterday but finished well and then today I had a couple of birdies in the first couple of holes and thought to myself that I am playing well enough to shoot two or three under again and then all of a sudden it fell into place on the back nine. The conditions were more difficult yesterday afternoon so despite the fact that I scored better today, I probably played as well on both days.”

“We started to get some wind on the 11th and 12th holes and it got quite strong. 12 under may be good enough to lead,” he said at that time, “but these guys are great professionals and you can’t underestimate them.” As it turned out, 12 under would be good enough to lead.

At this stage, Nitties has no place to play next year, but he is planning on heading to the Asian Tour qualifying in January to try and gain a card to play there next season.

Peter Lonard was the first to make a move on the leaders. Out at 7:20, he was four under through the first eight holes before hitting a shaky four hole patch.

“The front nine felt great but on my 10th, 11th and 12th holes I hit some shockers.” Fortunately for Lonard it did not cost him as he was able to make a couple of good up and downs to save par and then was there to capitalise when things got better. He birdied the par five 4th (his 13th), after laying up with his second, and then birdied the par five 8th and 9th to finish.

“Overall I’m happy and probably got the best out of today’s round. I thought today we didn’t have it as good as those who played early yesterday, but last week at the Australian Open I got the better of it so that’s golf. Some times it goes for you, sometimes it doesn’t.”

The strange ways of golf have another meaning here for Peter. Currently 45th in the world ranking and with a place at the US Masters at stake should he retain that place inside the top fifty by year’s end

Defending champion Peter Senior was playing with Lonard and the man who is battling his game at present, showed just what a competitor he is by putting together a five under 67 to be at eight under and still in with some chance of defending his title. When asked if he could win Senior responded, “I think I can. This is the sort of course that brings everybody back to the same level. It is more a positional course from the tee and length is not the factor it is elsewhere.”

Those out in the afternoon again had a tough time of it, but some were more than equal to the task.

Bob Estes, who had led after an opening 63, struggled a little today, but managed to grind out a two under 70 that got him within one of Nitties. He joined Nitties briefly in the lead when he birdied the 12th, but a bogey at the par five 15th saw him slip one behind.

Craig Parry, who has won at this golf course previously, made solid progress until the 8th where he made eagle to move into contention. He then reeled off seven pars before a tap in birdie at the 16th. That got him to nine under and within three of the lead at that point and two pars to finish saw him finish at nine under.

Another of the experienced Australian regulars, Peter O’Malley, got it to nine under through nine holes of his round but was not able to progress beyond that. He is however lurking, as he so often does in Australian tournaments, at nine under and just three back of Nitties.

Others on the course working their way into second round contention at least, was the Queenslander Wayne Perske and West Australian Dean Alaban. Alaban reached nine under before dropping a shot late but he will taste contention at this level of tournament for the first time tomorrow. The same could be said for Perske who has played in Japan on occasions but with only limited success. Also at eight under are the likes of Craig Spence who did so well yesterday and USPGA Tour player John Senden.

The surprise of the day and big disappointment for tournament organizers is that they lost their number one ranked player in the tournament, Adam Scott, who missed the cut. Scott returned from a skins game in the US last week and never really got going here. He could only manage a two under 70 in some of the easiest scoring conditions imaginable on day one. Today he was out in 39 and although he still had a chance to make the cut after a fine approach to the last, he missed from eight feet and he is out of here. “My putting was really ordinary,” he said later. “I lost all confidence with it and the putt at the last was indicative of what was happening. It is disappointing but that’s golf.”

The organizers still however have their number one drawcard Greg Norman in the tournament, his four under total has him in 19th position but it may just be that his lack of tournament play will take its toll over the weekend.

An interesting leaderboard mix awaits day three. Nitties, the inexperienced but talented rookie up against the red hot Lonard and the experienced Estes, O’Malley and Parry. There are others who may well come into it also such as previous winner on this course Nick O’Hern, defending champion Peter Senior and the golf course strategists in Corey Pavin and Stephen Leaney

With or without Adam Scott, this tournament still has some serious legs.

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 ยป

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