Tiger struggles, Aussies top leaderboard on day one
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US PGA Championship | Round One | 12 Aug 2005
On a day where the might of Baltusrol hardly had the chance to bare its true teeth on day one of the USPGA Championship, four Australians are well placed near the top of the leaderboard.
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Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, Mark Hensby and Geoff Ogilvy are amongst the twenty seven players who completed round one under par on a day where calm warm conditions reduced much of the pre-tournament hype about the course Tiger Woods had earlier in the week described as ’brutal’.
Mind you, perhaps Woods did find it brutal, bringing his hot pre-tournament favourite tag into question with his opening five over 75. He finds himself in 113th place and eight shots behind the leader. He is of course not yet out of it and I’m sure Woods, more than anyone, knows that only too well, but he has dug himself a rather deep hole from which to extract himself over the next three days.
He first has to make it beyond the second day which will it would seem require a round of one or two under for him to do so. From his three putt bogey at his first hole (the course’s 10th), Tiger was on the back foot and when he double bogeyed his 16th hole to move to six over par there was an eerie silence from the large crowd that walked with him. He did birdie his second last hole, after a brilliant second to the par four for his only birdie of a tough day, but he has a task ahead of him now.
Perhaps surprisingly it was those playing late in the day who would stake their claims at the top of the leaderboard. Of the six players who lead after round one, only Ben Curtis and Trevor Immelman were amongst those in the morning groups. As the course firmed up towards the afternoon the course yielded a little in terms of more run on the fairways although that was balanced by slightly firmer greens and greens that, while still good, were not at their pristine best of several hours earlier. Even allowing for that there were many still challenging in the late afternoon and the leaderboard would change significantly in the last two hours of play.
Stuart Appleby, like the others who took advantage of the rather benign late afternoon conditions, will get an early start on day two when he tees it up at 7:45am. Appleby, who had missed two consecutive cuts on his way into this event and has in general disappointed in 2005 after such a great start in Hawaii, was out in 33 and although he would drop shots on the way home he was also able to maintain his position with consecutive birdies at his 14th and 15th holes.
Steve Elkington is a class act when in form and he has shown this season that he is closing in on being back near his best. He was out early today but took quick advantage with birdies at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes to take the lead. Then came a run of ten consecutive pars before two consecutive bogeys at the 15th and 16th but he was able to birdie the easiest hole on the course, the very reachable par five 18th, to move back to two under and just one back of the lead.
Mark Hensby traded birdies and bogeys early in his round before an eagle at his 9th hole (the par five 18th), moved him to two under and once again the amazing Australian was challenging in a major. Bogeys at his 13th and 15th saw him slip back to even par but a birdie at his second last hole has him, at two under, right in the firing line again.
Geoff Ogilvy mixed birdies with bogeys all day and eventually settled for a one under 69. His recent 5th placing at St Andrews highlighted just how far he has come this year and although consistency has never been his greatest strength it is becoming that way in 2005. He now has that ability to bounce back from mini disasters and the greater belief that he must surely have as a result of his effort in Scotland could well stand him in good stead this week. He too will be out early on day two.
Of the other Australians Peter Lonard was best finishing with 71 but at one stage he was challenging for the lead when he reached two under though ten holes. He will face the afternoon draw tomorrow and given that this was his first start since St Andrews, it was a promising return.
Australia’s biggest disappointments on day one were Adam Scott and Robert Allenby. Scott bogeyed the first and never got it headed back in the right direction. He made a nice two putt birdie at the last when his second finished 15 feet from the hole. He has a lot of work to do to get back into the tournament but his first task is to record what will likely be round of par or better tomorrow to be around for the weekend.
Allenby, so desperate to gain a Presidents Cup wild card berth, would hardly have impressed Captain Gary Player with his ordinary start of 76. He faces an uphill task to make the weekend and if he does not then his chances of playing at Lake Manassas must surely be gone.
Of the more favoured players at the start of play, Vijay Singh made a strong late statement after struggling early. His birdies at the closing par fives have him within three and he already has a break on Tiger that might prove to be an important one. Singh’s putting was abysmal but if he can turn that around on day two with his early morning tee time, then he will be challenging by the end of play tomorrow.
Phil Mickelson struggled a little early but powered his way home with four birdies and no bogeys in his closing ten holes to grab a late share of the lead. He is well placed to take advantage of an early start on day two and perhaps before Tiger even arrives at the course, be even further ahead.
Retief Goosen made just the start he was looking for with his opening 68. He rallied late with three birdies in his last four holes to let all and sundry know he is around. It was an impressive start but as we have seen of late in the big ones some of his finishes have not been quite as impressive. He now has the chance to alter that.
Kenny Perry, also considered by many to be a danger this week, did not appear that way when he triple bogeyed the 7th to move to four over. With his outstanding driving ability he was one player who seemed to have the game to do well here and when he made the turn things began to fall into place. He birdied four of the first five holes on the way in to move back to even par, although he would drop a shot at the 15th to move back over par. At the desperately long par five 17th, he was some 90 yards short with his second, but hit a pitch that covered the flag and on its descent managed to get caught in it. It dropped straight down into the hole for eagle and although he was unable to birdie the last he had dodged a bullet with his brilliant finish back nine.
Sergio Garcia, another of the pre tournament favourites, hardly flattered with his opening round of 72. He is not out of it, by any stretch, but has a lot of high class players ahead of him as he tees it off at 8:00am tomorrow with one of the leaders, Mickelson.
Jim Furyk was another who many though might do well and he yet might but his opening round of 72 was a struggle.
The tournament is well poised already. With twenty seven players within three shots of the lead there is much to look forward to on day two.
Both Tiger Woods and Baltusrol went easy on this high class field on day one but day two may prove to be very different.
Photo – Anthony Powter