Nitties cruises to day one lead with 64
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2006 Australian PGA Championship | Round One | 07 Dec 2006
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As day one at the Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship drew to a close, the familiar story of tournament play was evolving on the Hyatt Regency Coolum layout.
Those out in the early morning conditions had the benefit of a golf course perfectly set up for good scoring while those in the afternoon had to contend with slightly increasing breezes and greens not quite as perfect as they had been early on. There had been an early shower or two of rain but if anything it enhanced the playing conditions and those out early took full advantage and by lunchtime those who would lead at day’s end had already made their mark.
James Nitties came into this event on the back of some ordinary results in recent weeks but this is a golf course he has fond memories of as it was here in 2004 where he announced by his actions that he was a young player to watch. He finished joint runner in up to Peter Lonard then after he and Bob Estes had been involved in a head to head on the final day before Lonard reeled off a run of birdies that would eventually sweep him to a two shot victory.
Nitties has struggled with injury, illness and the lack of a tour to play on for much of the two years since but he is a talent with a natural instinct to get his ball round the golf course. He found a way to do just that on the opening day of this event and at eight under par 64 he leads by one over the New Zealander Brad Iles and by two Nick O’Hern and Jarrod Lyle.
Nick O’Hern has not won since taking out the Schweppes Coolum Classic in 1999, the last event of the last millennium, but he has been in contention on so many occasions that surely it must happen. If it was to happen here at Hyatt Regency Coolum then there would be little surprise as he has often played well here despite not winning in recent times. His opening round of 66 has him very well placed to improve on that record this weekend.
Jarrod Lyle gave credit to some impressive iron play today. “I hit a lot of good iron shots to the greens today which gave me a lot of chances at birdie. I have not putted well of late but today I holed a lot of good putts for birdie and a couple for par especially on the 6th hole where I hit it over the back.”
Late in the day other players were making their moves. A week ago after missing the cut at the New Zealand Open, New Zealander Bradley Iles was at the end of his tether. He had missed three consecutive cuts and it wasn’t just that he was missing them but rather that he was missing by many. After some soul searching last week and early this week Iles returned to the scene of his first event as a professional twelve months ago and today turned things around with an opening round of seven under par 65 to be just one behind Nitties.
Two years ago Iles was recovering from a close to death experience after falling from a golf cart in South Carolina. Twelve months ago he made a dream start to his professional career by finishing 25th in this event and then 6th at the MasterCard Masters. A return to a place he has fond memories of and a decision to just go and play rather than being bogged down by it all, paid dividends.
Brad Iles Interview
*Audio by Bruce Young
Late in the day Peter O’Malley was moving through the field and when he birdied his last three holes he was at six under 66. O’Malley has played solidly in recent weeks without really threatening to win but with some form on this course he has made just the start he wants to change that. He began to hole putts late in his round and that serves as a warning for his fellow competitors as there has been little doubt as to the quality of his ball striking of late. Given that his round was played late in the day gives his effort even greater significance.
Another who late in the day would join those at six under was Marc Leishman who birdied three of his last four holes to be in a share of third with O’Malley, O’Hern and Lyle. Leishman is just a year into his professional career and he has already won twice on the Von Nida Tour, won that Order of Merit and won also in Korea.
There are many other potential contenders for the title who have made good starts including the likes of Rod Pampling and Stuart Appleby (67) and Peter Lonard, Geoff Ogilvy and Craig Parry at four under 68.
The day however belonged to James Nitties but he will have his challenges and his challengers when he plays in the afternoon tomorrow.
Photo – Anthony Powter