Tour News

Gates and Buckle share PGA lead

(Photo: Anthony Powter)
Queenslander Andrew Buckle and American Robert Gates might have played at different ends of the draw on day one of the Australian PGA Championship but at the end of the opening round they are tied at 8 under and have established a two shot break over the field.

In warm, sunny conditions, almost defying belief after the deluge earlier in the week, the golf course was there for the taking and many would do just that. With the golf course still wet underfoot in many areas, however, lift clean and place was implemented, providing one further contributing factor towards the low scoring that was a feature of the day.

As always the case here at Hyatt Regency Coolum, the breeze increased during the day but it was hardly a factor. That the day was book-ended by the rounds of 64 by Buckle and Gates highlights that the conditions were fair for all throughout the day.

Buckle began his round at 6.10am and bogeyed two of his first four holes but then began a run of seven birdies in his next nine holes. It was a round that could have perhaps been even better. "On 15, 16 and 18 I had makeable chances," he said. "They all just missed but I was hitting good putts. The two early bogeys were soft bogeys but overall I did not expect this today."

Buckle has just completed another season playing the Nationwide Tour having played the PGA Tour in 2007 after gaining access then via the Nationwide Tour. There is little doubting Buckle's significant talent. As a two time Junior World Champion, an Australian Amateur Champion, a winner of his very first event as a professional and a near winner of his third ever event on the PGA Tour, few would deny the massive ability 28 year old.

Perhaps the only person to need convincing is Buckle himself. "When I got to the PGA Tour I was quite young I was quite young and maybe I was not quite ready for it. It was hard to get my head around a lot of things "“ you know playing with those guys, because you know I have never really thought I was that great a player," he said when spoken to after his round. "So maybe when I get back there," he added referring to the chance of being better prepared when he does get back to the PGA Tour.

"Each year I have tried to get better and better and just missed out (on getting back to the PGA Tour last year). This year it has just been more of a mental battle but I know what I have to work on and I have always practiced pretty hard so it is the mind that has just let me down."

If Andrew Buckle ever convinces himself just how good he is then he has the potential to become one of Australia's very best players.

At the other end of the day, current New Zealand Open champion and recent PGA Tour recruit Bobby Gates was seeing things through different eyes. Gates not only won in Queenstown earlier in the year in his very first Nationwide Tour start but a week later he finished third at the Moonah Links Championship and by mid February he had all but assured himself of PGA Tour status.

For Gates however there would be only two more top tens in 2010, perhaps the feeling that it was mission accomplished arriving too early.

How did he feel about his year? "It was humbling. I got off to a great start and it was kind of "˜oh this is easy' but after that I went back (to the US) and struggled a little bit. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about just how unglamorous professional golf life can be, you know the late nights in airports and trying to save money here and there. There are a lot of guys on the Nationwide Tour who want the same thing "“ we all want one of those 25 cards."

Gates is here for several reasons. He and his wife were looking for a vacation, he wanted to prepare his game for the early events on the 2011 PGA Tour and he has a shot at winning the Australasian Tour's money list.

"Part of it was the fact that I was pretty high up on the Order of Merit and part of it was because I am going into my rookie year and the Aussies seems to arrive in Hawaii better prepared for Hawaii and the West Coast and I think it is because they use these weeks to prepare and get ready for the 20111 season. Probably the biggest reason to come down, however, was to work on some things and improve my game.

"I have an idea of the benefits of winning the money list but they are just the benefits of playing well so we would like to play well first and take care of business.

Gates holed a 45 foot birdie putt at the last to draw level with Buckle who had finished more than five hours earlier.

Chinese golfer Liang Wen-chong is one of Asia's best and the 5th highest ranked player in this field. He has won twice on the One Asia Tour this season but perhaps his best performance came when he finished 8th at the PGA Championship behind Martin Kaymer. Liang is the 5th highest ranked player in this field.

The roll continues for Steve Bowditch having won on the Nationwide Tour this season, re-gained his PGA Tour card and won the NSW PGA Championship. At his best he is capable of winning this event.

The other player just two behind the lead is 1983 Australian Open Champion and 51 year old Peter Fowler. Fowler has seven birdies in his round and also played quite nicely at last week's Australian Open.

The cut appears at this stage as if it will fall around the 1 under par mark with 66 players having broken par in round one. One who did not however was Adam Scott who recorded a quadruple bogey 8 in his round of 73.

Other prominent player's scores include John Senden at 3 under 69, Robert Allenby, Nick O'Hern and Geoff Ogilvy at 2 under 70 and three time winner at Coolum Peter Lonard a 2 over par 74.


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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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