Tour News

Bowditch and Choi share Aust PGA lead

(Photo: Anthony Powter)
Korean golfer, Choi Jon-woo, and a man who grew up playing golf on the Sunshine Coast, Steve Bowditch, share the lead at the completion of play on the opening day of the 2011 Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca Cola.

The pair opened with rounds of 66 to lead by one over Aaron Townsend, Bubba Watson and the late finishing Andre Stolz and Aaron Baddeley, Baddeley making birdie at his final two holes to leap into contention.

The opening round got underway in surprisingly ideal conditions at the Hyatt Regency Coolum's layout on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, the predicted rain and storms noticeably absent from what was, overall, a great opening day.

Warm, humid and still conditions greeted the field as the opening three-balls which teed off at 6.00am and when the morning groups had finished it was the Korean golfer, Choi Joon-woo who led the way after an opening round of 6 under 66.

The 32 year old Choi, currently ranked 898 in the world, plays the Korean and OneAsia Tours and is here as a result of this event being jointly sanctioned by the One Asia Tour. "I played this course last year for four rounds so I know the course well," said Choi. "I am really enjoying being able to play here again.

"This is a very big tournament with many good players in the field so it is very competitive out there."

Choi is currently 70th on the OneAsia Tour money list so a continuation of this great start would be huge for the young man whose best finish in 2011 was when 5th in a Korean Tour event.

Aaron Townsend was another of the morning field to post a good score. The Novocastrian made the turn in 1 under 35 but powered home over the closing stages for a round of 67. For Townsend the form could not have come at a better time.

"I have a couple of big weeks coming up but obviously this is still an important week," said the former NSW Open and PGA Champion. "Next week I have the final stage of Japan (qualifying) and then straight to final stage of Europe, so ideally I would like to get somewhere to play a fulltime tour somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere in the middle of the year.

"Luckily since my good play here last year, that is the first trip I have had to make to get into those stages but it is still going to be about a fifteen thousand dollar trip."

The other player to excel amongst the morning group was American invitee and successful member of last week's Presidents Cup team, Bubba Watson. Watson birdied three of his last four holes for a round of 67 to be just one behind Choi's lead.

One player who threatened to share the honours on morning one was New Zealander Josh Geary who when he birdied the 16th had actually joined Choi in the lead. He bogeyed the 17th and then almost found the water from the tee at the 18th and took another bogey.

The most bizarre round of the morning came from Adam Scott. The leading world ranked player in the field made a horror start to the tournament when he double bogeyed his second hole (the 11th). Admittedly he had birdied his opening hole but by the time he reached the 8th tee of his round he was 5 over for the tournament and spending weekend surfing seemed to be becoming more of a reality than a dream.

Scott then unleashed a run of seven birdies in his final ten holes to finish with a respectable round of 70. Instead of contemplating which beach at the weekend it will be a case of potentially contending for the title.

The afternoon field faced very similar conditions to those of the morning field the only real difference being a very gentle breeze and, at times, gentle drizzle.

The first to state his intentions was Jason Day. Day was playing his very first event as a professional in his home state of Queensland and was keen to impress.

The 24 year old birdied five of his first seven holes before a bogey at the 8th slowed the momentum. He immediately bounced back with a birdie at the 9th after a delightful pitch set up a six foot birdie putt. A dropped shot at the 12th slowed the momentum.

He almost holed his tee shot at the par three 14th, dropped a shot at the par five 15th before a great birdie from the fairway bunker at the 16th. He missed an opportunity at the 17th but finished with a round of 69 to be three behind the lead.

Local golfer, Steve Bowditch, was another to be making a move. Bowditch will next week head for the Final Stage of Qualifying for the US PGA Tour having lost his full playing rights there this year. He showed today that he is in the sort of form he needs to be to regain his full right to play the world's leading tour again next year. Bowditch leaves on Monday for California where the Final Stage will be played in Palm Springs.

Bowditch birdied four of his last five holes and even though a bogey at the 16th threatened to put a dampener on the finish, after he had been perhaps too aggressive with his line form the tee, he rallied again to hole a 25 footer at the last for one final birdie and a share of Choi's lead.

"I think this course is in the best shape it has ever been in," said Bowditch. "I am obviously a local here and have been playing here for 15 years and it is the best I have ever seen it. They have narrowed the fairways and the greens are firm and fast and I guess they have dethatched quite a lot in the past year and they are perfect."

"I hit the ball as good as I have hit it for six or seven months today so it could have been worse or it could have been better."

Amongst other notable scores were Darren Clarke and Kim Kyung Tae's 69, Stuart Appleby and Peter Senior's rounds of 70.

The disappointments of day oen were perhaps the rounds of even par by both Nick O'Hern and Geoff Ogilvy and the 1 over par round of 73 by John Senden. Tomorrow however is another day.

Day one has gotten the tournament off to the start it needed with many of the leading chances making solid if at times unspectacular starts.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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