Mixed fortunes early at wet Australian PGA

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 Australian PGA Championship | Round One | 01 Dec 2005
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Hot humid conditions greeted the field on day one of the Cadbury Schweppes PGA Championship and at 9:30 am, the rain which had been threatening since an overnight storm had passed by in the early hours of the morning, eventually returned.

The first group was out at 6:15am and they were blessed with three hours of near perfect conditions but the scoreboard was suggesting there were demons on the Hyatt Regency Coolum layout. No-one appeared to be taking full advantage of the early conditions with those who were under par, only just so, through nine holes.

Nathan Green, who has been somewhat of a quiet achiever in his professional career and who now has the hallowed status of being a USPGA Tour player was the first to really break clear when he birdied the 10th to move to four under.

Victorian Pat Giles, who regularly plays the Asian Tour and New South Welshman Richard Swift shared second place at 10:15am at three under.

The group at two under included Mathew Goggin, who played well at last week’s Australian Open and alongside him is last week’s winner Robert Allenby. Allenby started at the tenth hole and birdied his first and seventh holes to move to two under. Amongst the more favoured players to win the tournament, Allenby was the standout with several of the other leading players struggling. When he had birdied his 12th hole he had moved to within one of the lead and the struggles he experienced with his hand last week appeared a distant memory, at least in the short term.

Peter Lonard, a winner of two of his last three events here, had a horror start after starting at the tenth when he bogeyed the thirteenth and then double bogeyed the par three fourteenth when finding water. He bounced back with birdies at the sixteenth and eighteenth holes before a bogey at his ninth hole – the course’s last – saw him turn in two over 38.

Nick O’Hern, another considered a chance to do well here, recorded three bogeys in his first seven holes and was already facing a big challenge to get back into the tournament. O’Hern has a good record here and is in good form but his early stumble means he will need something special for the remainder of his round to recover.

Richard Green, who last year led the Australasian Tour Order of Merit, started well and was two under when he reached his eighth hole, the par four seventeenth, but a bogey there and a double at his ninth hole saw him fall from 2nd the 27th.

Ryan Palmer, a winner on the USPGA Tour in late 2004 and who recently finished third at both the NEC and the Funai Classic was another to struggle early in the day. A double bogey at the second was followed by a series of bogeys and birdies before he turned in two over. He would add another bogey at the eleventh hole to be at three over at that point.

At 11:00am the rain, which had eased of for an hour or so, returned with interest and at 11:25am play was called to a halt for the first time. Players were asked to hold their positions on the course rather than return to the clubhouse and as that happened Victorian Luke Hickmott was making birdie at the 16th hole to take the lead at four under along with Richard Swift, who had birdied the 11th as play was called.

The talk of the morning, apart from the surprise form of Lonard and O’Hern, was the effort of Terry Price in teeing it up. Price has been recovering from a serious break to his leg in August. He has played three events on the Australasian Tour earlier in the year but in order for him to play the Johnnie Walker Classic in February in Perth he needs to be inside the top thirty on the money list and to have played a minimum of four events on the Australasian Tour in 2005.

As the PGA was being played in reasonable proximity to his home on the Gold Coast he decided to at least try to play as the PGA Tour would not grant him a medical exemption. He played nine holes in 39 before withdrawing, not because his leg forced him to, but because he had developed blisters on his hands from walking so far with crutches. It was bizarre to say the least. He has, however, now played or at least attempted to play the four events and should have enough money up to get him a start in Perth, injury permitting.

Photo – Anthony Powter

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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.

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