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Cullen, Fraser and Ormsby lead Australians in Sicily

Steady improvement of late for Ormsby and a good start in Sicily (Photo: Bruce Young)
Wade Ormsby, Marcus Fraser and Nick Cullen are the best placed Australians at the European Tour's Rocco Forte Open on the island of Sicily in southern Italy, the trio sharing 18th position and five behind the leaders Michael Hoey of England and Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg.

Andrew Dodt is one shot further back in 34th position, Jason Srivener 50th, Daniel Fox 74th and Nathan Holman’s playing woes continued when he opened with a round of 77 to be second to last of the opening day field.

South Australian, Ormsby, appeared as if he might be one to challenge for the lead when he raced to the turn in 30 but he was only able to tread water from that point and finished at 5 under 66.

The 37 year old has begun to play a little better in recent months and although a winner of only one event as a professional, that coming in the Panasonic Open India four years ago, it appears his game is making a turn for the better.

Cullen’s round was highlighted by a hole in one at the 7th hole which was the 16th of his round. It was the core of a strong finish where he picked up four shots in his finishing five holes.

Cullen, who does not enjoy European Tour status, is in the field courtesy of his efforts on the Challenge Tour last year.

Fraser is the leading world ranked Australian in the field and, like Cullen, he began his round strongly with four birdies in his first seven holes although the layout generally proved to be one yielding many birdies.

Already, the cut appears as if it will be around 4 or 5 under par at the completion of 36 holes tomorrow.

Co leader, Michael Hoey, is a winner of five European Tour titles and three on the Challenge Tour but of late his form has seen him slip to 683rd in the world. He has either missed the cut or withdrawn from 11 of his last 14 starts so this is a welcome return to form for the 38 year old former amateur star although he explained some of thr reason for his slump of late

“We've had two kids and it's been tiring. I had to have sinus surgery done a couple of years ago. I haven't been as healthy as I wanted to be so hopefully now I can get going.

"It's my best ever score by two shots, no bogeys, it doesn't get much better. You've got to do everything well, they're ideal conditions really, Sicily is a beautiful place so I'm just enjoying the week so far. 

“The standard of golf is unbelievable nowadays. There's not that much rough so you can score. It's different from five or ten years ago, I can see the standard just improving a lot. I'm just happy that I'm on TV a bit and speaking to you guys."

Hoey’s co-leader, Sebastian Soderberg of Sweden, is a rookie on the European Tour in 2017 but other than an 11th place finish at the Joburg Open there has not been a lot to get excited about until now.

His round of 10 under 61 could well be the catalyst for him to improve sharply. He was a winner on the Challenge Tour in 2016 and has performed well in one or two European Tour events when playing on invite earlier.   


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