Kiwis dominating at Australian Open
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2008 Australian Open | Round One | 11 Dec 2008
As midday approached at the Royal Sydney Golf Club it was clear that despite the overnight and morning rain, the early conditions were as good as they were likely to be on the opening day.
“These conditions we got were the best of the day,” said joint leader New Zealander Mark Brown. “We don’t get greens as good as this very often so it was nice to be able to get first use of them. The golf course was not too damp underfoot – it was just perfect. It is good to get back to Australia and even though I have not played well here I really enjoy playing here.”
Brown comes off his best season in golf just two years after returning to tournament golf following a few years where he took up an administration role with New Zealand Golf. The once outstanding amateur who represented New Zealand at the Eisenhower has always been considered a talented player and this year he has shown why.
Wins at the Sails Open and the Johnnie Walker Classic events in India in March set up access to the European Tour and elevated his status in the game. To a large extent he has struggled since but as he described today everything has been new to him including playing the range of climates and courses in Europe, World Golf Championship events and Majors.
“There has been lots of adjustment,” added Brown.
A putting tip from Brett Rumford this week has certainly helped.
“My caddy Max Cunningham knows Brett quite well and he set up a chat with him and it has helped.”
Half an hour after Brown had finished his media duties, David Smail arrived in the media centre after he too had holed a birdie putt at the last to move into a share of the lead with his fellow countryman.
Smail’s only mistake of the day came at the 17th when he bogeyed the par three.
“I mishit my tee shot and it finished in the front bunker. It was a difficult bunker shot and couldn’t get it up and down. I arrived here feeling good about my game after finishing second in Japan at the Japan Series event last week. It has been another solid season there. I finished 20th on the money list and had quite a few top tens.”
Smail has never ventured to the USA despite having opportunities to avoid the early stages of the USPGA Tour School.
“I like Japan – it suits my lifestyle and my game,” said the man whose wins in that country have included the Japan Open.
Smail has won the Canon Challenge in Australia and finished runner up to Michael Campbell at the Johnnie Walker Classic in addition to another runner up finish at the PGA Championship last year behind Peter Lonard.
Smail had finished runner up at last week’s Golf Nippon Series event in Tokyo and played with fellow Japan Tour player and friend Brendan Jones who interestingly was also runner up in the same event just last Sunday.
Smail moved to 5 under through 13 holes before a bogey at the 17th. He bounced back with a birdie at the last. The pair had opened up a two shot lead over John Senden, Heath Reed and Monday qualifier Troy Kennedy.