Out in the morning field and playing with two former winners in Jordan Spieth and Geoff Ogilvy, Luck cruised to the turn in a solid but hardly spectacular 34 but then birdied five holes on the back nine. Despite two bogies thrown in for good measure he had opened with a five under par round of 67 and would find himself tied for the lead with Victorian Lucas Herbert when the morning half of the draw had completed their rounds.
The pair led by one over Victorian Adam Burdett, Sydney’s Benjamin Clemenston and New Zealander Ryan Fox who both opened with rounds of 68, Fox, too, making a slow start before a homeward nine of 32 has him very much in the mix as the afternoon field heads out into the strengthening sea breeze.
Luck arrived at this week’s event as a genuine chance to be the first amateur golfer to win this event since Aaron Baddeley won at this very course in 1999. Earlier this year he won the PGA Tour of Australasia’s West Australian open and finished 5th in a Japan Tour event soon after. But the thing that has elevated Luck’s status in the game has been his wins at the US Amateur and Asia Pacific Amateur Championships which have earned him a start at three of next year’s four major championships if he so chooses.
Luck is very much a player who runs his own race and looks comfortable in any golfing situation but playing with Geoff Ogilvy and Jordan Spieth today it became a case of whether the highly credentialed pair could match the deeds of their younger, less experienced playing partner.
They could not as Spieth would open with a round of 69 and Ogilvy 70. Both however have made solid starts.
Spieth, in particular, was complimentary about Luck’s game although in the nicest possible way Luck has a lot of belief in his own ability.
“It’s something that has kind of come to me over the past few years,” said Luck in his post round press conference. “I think every child at some point has a few little issues with controlling their anger, but it’s something I’ve got really good at. I guess now I can kind of put it away and just keep going and digging deep when I’ve hit a couple of bad shots, which today I probably didn’t hit it my best, so there are times where I did need to be able to make some saves and fortunately I did.
Luck was also complimentary about Spieth and how much he enjoyed playing with him.
“Look, his ball striking is obviously great. His putting, he rolls it great. He didn’t have a great day on the putting green but you can see how he can pretty much go around the course or a tournament and clean up on the greens. So, it’s really impressive just watching him do his thing really, in Jordan. Geoff also hits it great, yet again missed a couple of putts out there.
“I just really admire how casual he is about it all, I think that’s great. I’m someone that enjoys chatting on the golf course, so the fact that he’s happy to talk with some stinky amateur out in the field is pretty good I think.”
Lucas Hebert is another young Australian golfer who has now been a professional for twelve months and, while some of that time has been a battle for him as he chases a place to play in order to build continuity with his game, he is clearly beginning to find his feet. He has recorded two very good finishes at the Queensland and New South Wales Opens and appears to be regaining the confidence that saw him as one of Australia’s leading amateurs before turning professional.
Herbert was the beneficiary of an invite to play the event courtesy of Golf Australia. "Whenever you get an invite into a big event, especially like this one, you want to make the most of it, said Herbert. "It was really pleasing for me, because I felt like if I did get into this week that I could play really well, I was in good form and I had good confidence, so yeah, it was really fortunate that I got in. I was quite determined to take advantage of that."
Clemenston has not finished better than 13th in any of the professional events he has played in his relatively young career, but has made a great start in his hometown to his national open.
Burdett is a player good enough to have won the Trainee Championship of WA this year and good enough to have recorded a round of 59 at his own Yarrawonga Mulawa Golf Club last year so clearly has some game but this is another level again and he has done well.
Fox is New Zealand’s third highest ranked player after Danny Lee and Michael Hendry and has just earned his 2017 European Tour card via the Tour School. He is considered by many to be a future star of world golf, his power game a great asset for him but he has shown a capacity to win events was well with two wins of the Challenge Tour in Europe and two on the Australasian Tour.
Now that he has a quality tour on which to play Fox is expected to go ahead in leaps and bounds in 2017.
So with the afternoon field heading out they face a tough task in matching the exploits of those who had the ideal morning conditions get their Australian open underway.
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