Beaufils opens strongly at Rice Planters

Ray Beaufils has fired a 3-under-par opening round 69 to be in a tie for 7th position at the Rice Planters Invitational in South Carolina.

Beaufils' round was the best of the five Australians playing at Snee Farm Country Club, and has the Queenslander four strokes behind current leader, American Austin Cody.

Michael Smyth opened with an even par 72, and is the next best Australian, whilst Ben Weatherly had a 73 with Ryan Lynch and Luke Bleumink opening with a 74.

Cody fired a 7-under-par 65 to have a one-shot lead over Brooks Koepka of Florida State. Cody recently finished second in the South Carolina Junior, third in the Western Junior in Texas and qualified for his second straight US Junior Championship.

Whilst there are no American players inside the world's top 100 competing this week in South Carolina, the field is littered with young collegiate talent. The tournament itself is also rich in history.

Over the years, Rice Planters title holders have accounted for more than 50 PGA Tour wins, along with numerous wins on the Nationwide and Champions Tours. Two former Rice Planters champions have had PGA Tour victories this season, 1992 winner Brian Gay at the Verizon Heritage and the St. Jude Championship and 1986 winner Michael Bradley at the Puerto Rico Open.

Four of the past five Rice Planters winners have come from Australia and Beaufils comes into this tournament with solid rounds at the Monroe Invitational and Sunnehanna Amateur under his belt.

On three occasions in amateur events back in Australia, Beaufils has finished runner-up at the 2006 Queensland Amateur Championship, the 2006 Keperra Bowl and 2006 Gary Player Classic. Whilst a major amateur title has eluded him so far, Beaufils has returned to the US with no real expectations with his game following a forced six month layoff.

He is a more relaxed player, yet still maintains that steely desire to compete the best he can whenever he tees the ball up. The form that had Beaufils in the National Squad for a number of years has been there in patches, his resent results spotted with the odd poor round. If Beaufils' consistency improves this week in South Carolina, he should be a serious challenger come Sunday.

The low 60 and ties after the third round will make the cut for Sunday's final round.

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