Allenby's brilliance replaces controversy

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 Australian Open | Round One | 24 Nov 2005
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Day One Photo Gallery – Australian Open 2005

As day one at the MFS Australian Open drew to a close, those who had taken advantage of the early morning conditions that prevailed on Thursday were still holding court on the leaderboard with Robert Allenby’s remarkable round of 63 leading the event.

Admittedly they had played in calm morning conditions and on a golf course so beautifully prepared that Robert Allenby was moved to say that it was the best conditioned course he had played on all year which, given where his golfing journeys have taken him in 2005, is a big wrap. The quality of the scoring confounded those who had believed that the course would fight back after the nine under par total Peter Lonard had shot in 2003. It might yet but those out in the early morning had designer Peter Thomson likely wondering just what he needs to do to protect par.

As the afternoon group headed out they knew they were up against it if they were to match the amazing scoring of the morning group. The breezes had begun to pick up and while they were not as strong as they had been on the practice day yesterday, they were sufficient to make a noticeable difference in scoring.

The one player from that afternoon group on whom the breezes seemed to have little impact – especially early on – was the Victorian Geoff Ogilvy. Ogilvy has continued to establish himself on the US PGA Tour in each and every year and in 2005 he has broken through to not only win at the Tucson Open but to produce outstanding finishes at the Open Championship when 5th and at the USPGA when 6th.

“The conditions only really became tough around the thirteenth hole and then the last few holes were really tough,” he said after his round. “Still I would have taken two under heading out so I was really happy that I was able to go a few better. I took bogey at the last which into this wind is a tough hole. Placement is so important to set up the third shot there and even though I had done that ok, I hit a bad third.” I just hope that we get a break in the morning and have conditions similar to those who played this morning."

So impressive was Ogilvy’s round that only he and James Nitties (68), amongst those who played late in the day, were able to better 69 while there had been eight able to do so earlier in the day. It reflected a golf course made more difficult by the 20 kilometre per hour wind and one that had dried out and become even firmer as the day went on.

Perhaps the disappointment of the afternoon was the round of the defending champion Peter Lonard. Lonard never got his round headed in the right direction and in fact he would record only one birdie on a day where he struggled for distance control.

“I actually drove the ball really well,” he said later “but I never made anything in the way of putts and I struggled all day with my distance control especially with my short irons.”

Lonard will need to take full advantage of his early draw tomorrow if he is to have any chance of defending his consecutive Australian Open Championship titles.

James Nitties, who burst to prominence at the Australian PGA Championship twelve months ago when finishing second to Lonard just three weeks after turning professional, has just returned from USPGA Tour stage two qualifying. He produced a last nine of 33 to move himself into contention – especially with the prospect of an early tee time tomorrow. Nitties has overcome a mysterious viral infection earlier in the year which threatened to set his career back considerably but clearly he has made sufficient recovery to again be featuring in one of Australia’s key events.

Stuart Appleby was another of the pre tournament favourites to do well in the afternoon. While his two under 70 hardly set the world on fire it was enough to keep him in the hunt and with an 8.17 tee time tomorrow he is well enough placed.

So at the end of day one of what has already been a most talked about opening day – thanks to the controversy and discussion generated by Mark Hensby – the Australian Open is led by Robert Allenby at nine under 63 by a shot from Spencer Levin.

Just to finish on the Hensby issue he finished his round earlier in the day with a one under 71 after a start which promised more. That was likely the easy part of the day for Hensby. Perhaps more difficult would be the phone call he promised to make to Greg Norman to discuss his comments of yesterday. Just who would come out on top in that one would be as intriguing as the contest on the course today perhaps more so. It is hard to imagine either backing down.

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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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