IT is early days but New South Welshman Cameron Davis is off to a flying start in his bid to play next year’s US Masters at Augusta.
Davis, a member of the Australian Eisenhower Cup team which recently swept away its rivals in Mexico, shot a superb 7-under 65 in the first round to lead the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in South Korea.
He held a two shot buffer over another Australian, Victorian Brett Coletta, and Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira.
Coletta’s round was brilliant given that he had to play with strong winds buffeting the course in the afternoon.
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The 20-year-old posted the best score of the afternoon groupings and said he was looking forward to the second round in more benign early conditions.
“That was one of the better rounds I’ve had all year especially given I was so nervous beforehand,” said Coletta, the 2015 US Amateur stroke-play medallist.
The reigning US Amateur champion, WA’s Curtis Luck, is five shots off the pace after an opening 70.
The third member of the Eisenhower team, NSW’s Harrison Endycott, shot 72 while Queenslander Anthony Quayle had 73 and NSW’s Travis Smyth had 72.
All have plenty of work to do if they are to mount a serious challenge.
The winner of the annual 72-hole stroke event for top amateurs in the region gains an automatic invitation to next year’s first major at Augusta National.
Luck is already in the field by virtue of his stunning US Amateur victory this year.
Davis, ranked Number Six in the world, was shattered last year when he missed out by a shot in this event at Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong.
He and another Australian, Ryan Ruffels, were tied for second after 54 holes when the final round was abandoned because of a typhoon in the area.
Had the eventual winner, Chinese young gun Jin Cheng, not holed a ‘bomb’ late Saturday to grab a one stroke lead, he would have been tied with the Australians overnight.
Officials later confirmed all three would have been given gilt-edged invitations to Augusta.
Cheng has opened with a 72 in this year’s event.
Davis wasn’t making a deal of last year’s end before this year’s tournament but certainly started like a man keen to atone for the 2015 disappointment.
He had eight birdies for the day with his only bogey coming at the par-4 2nd.
He reeled off four successive birdies from the 5th to the 8th holes.
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club at Incheon, which hosted the 2015 Presidents Cup, measures more than 7000 yards (6,400 metres) and requires pinpoint approach shots to the massive putting surfaces, many of which have false fronts.
But Davis had little trouble hitting his approach shots with the required accuracy, his longest birdie putt for the day a 20 footer at the eighth.
He holed two more 15 footers for birdies in an extremely well-compiled 65.
“It was nice to play some really good golf and keep some form going,” Davis, 21, said after his round.
He finished leading individual in the Eisenhower event two weeks ago.
“I was just trying the enjoy the round, the scenery and the golf course because the more pressure you put on yourself in an event like this, the harder it is to perform.
“Conditions were good and the greens were still quite soft, so the ball was stopping quickly.
“It wasn’t too difficult but I still had to hit some good shots,” the Sydneysider said.
Only one Australian, South Australian Antonio Murdaca, has won his way into Augusta by winning this tournament. Murdaca romped away with the event when it was played at Royal Melbourne in 2014, winning by seven shots.
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