O'Hern tames Huntingdale to lead Masters
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 MasterCard Masters | Round One | 08 Dec 2005
Nick O’Hern stands atop the leaderboard after round one of the MasterCard Masters following a simply stunning round of 64 which is effectively a new course record given the further changes made to the Huntingdale Golf Club’s layout in 2005.
O’Hern started his round at 7:30am on a pleasant, fine morning but with gentle breezes wafting across the layout here. Those breezes increased to around 15 kilometres an hour by mid morning making club selection on many of the cross wind holes difficult. You wouldn’t have known that from the manner in which O’Hern went about his business.
“I actually didn’t hit the ball as well today as I have in recent weeks but all of a sudden I shoot eight under. It’s amazing what happens when you get the putter going. I have played well for a couple of years now but have not managed to get the putter going as well as I would have liked. There was a pattern developing there so decided to do something about it.”
“We have now had an artificial green at home and it is beautiful. It rolls about the same speed as these. I have also made subtle changes to my putting set up. The course was soft today so we were able to fire at the flags but there were times when I had no idea where that wind was coming from.”
O’Hern made eagles at his fifth hole, the course’s 14th after holing his wedge and then again at his 16th, the course’s 7th after his three wood from the edge of a fairway trap 220 metres out finished four metres from the hole.
“I’m glad I am a left hander as I wouldn’t have had a stance if I was a right hander,” he said about his three wood approach. O’Hern had four birdies and no bogeys to go with his two eagles.
O’Hern was asked about his thoughts on the course before and after the changes.
“I think the first time I played the course was in 1997 or 1998 and by then they had made some of the big changes. I never really played the course prior to the changes commencing. I used to love the feel of playing holes like six and seven with tea trees lining the fairways and where accuracy was more of a premium. I’m not sure what that was taken out as it is a different feel. I am also a bit of a fan on the sandbelt courses where there is a bit of width in the fairways but where you need to be in position on them. I like the fairways to be flatter and I know they have added contours here for drainage issues but I think there is the danger on fairways with humps such as here, that at times even a good drive could bounce off it.”
The almost inevitable and obligatory question regarding O’Hern’s lack of wins on his resume was asked and he answered in the candid manner which is typically Nick O’Hern.
“I am often asked that and in many ways it is nice to be asked that question as it means I am playing well. I ask myself the same question but I continue to be encouraged by the fact that I am improving each year. I will never be a bomber and tend more to rely on my strengths which are my accuracy and short game. The style of courses in Melbourne tends to suit that type of golf.”
The rain early in the week had softened up the golf course and the players out early took full advantage. Within two hours of play beginning, some twenty five players were under par. Robert Allenby took an early lead but he was cut back by O’Hern, who played in the group behind him. Allenby would end up with an opening 67 which has him well poised to attempt was has yet to be achieved previously, namely the triple crown of Australian golf the Open, the PGA and the Masters in the one season.
“I left a lot of putts short out there and perhaps the reason is because the practice putting green is the original one and is a lot quicker than those which are on the course and are the new greens,” said Allenby. If I had a say I would have the practice green running at the same speed as the greens on the course. The winds were fluky out there and it was hard to be precise with distance control."
Still, Allenby has made just the start he was after and appears set for another week in contention.
John Senden continued his good run of form of late when he birdied his last two holes for 67 and is in a share of second with Allenby, South Australian Adam Bland and New South Welshman Steve Conran.
Bland was the Von Nida Tour’s Order of Merit winner in his very first season as a professional in 2005 and has shown that he is more than capable of taking it to another level again. He won the West Australian PGA Championship en route to his Order of Merit win.
Steve Conran’s main claim to fame in Australia is his runner up placing to Robert Allenby at the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland several years ago, but he has made a very good living in Japan in recent years. He has won once in Japan but in the time he has played there he has won ¥259 million or AUD$2.8 million.
Amongst those at four under was another rookie but this time one who is playing in just his second professional tournament, New Zealander Bradley Iles. Eighteen months ago, after a horrendous golf cart accident in Georgia in the United States, it was not so much a matter whether Iles would play golf again but whether he would live. He has made a remarkable recovery and after such a good professional debut last week he has again made a fine start here.
Also included at four under is Peter O’Malley, who is, like O’Hern, advantaged by a golf course where strategy and placement play a greater role than power.
The disappointment of the day was undoubtedly Adam Scott who was out early but could only manage a first round 76. With the cut possibly being three over tomorrow then he has his work cut out to be around for the weekend. He will face afternoon conditions tomorrow to make his task just that little more difficult.
The talk of the day after day one of the 2005 MasterCard Masters was the brilliance of O’Hern, the ordinary effort from the pre tournament favourite Scott and the hole in one by Queensland amateur Andrew Dodt.
Photo – Anthony Powter