Impressive start to Australian Open

The opening day of the first ever Australian Open held at the New South Wales Golf Club provided perfect early scoring conditions and a player out in the first group of the day, Scott Hend, took full advantage with a round of six under par 66.

Interestingly however it would be one of the afternoon starters who would share the honours with Hend on day one. Stuart Appleby has not played well for much of 2009 but there have been signs of late that things are getting better. He finished 8th at the Australian Masters and teamed with Robert Allenby to finish 6th at the World Cup of Golf in China last week.

Appleby teed off in at 12.20 and in the more demanding afternoon conditions raced to the turn in 31 before eventually finishing with a round of 66. A bogey at the last cost the Victorian the outright lead but it was an impressive start.

"I hit the ball solid all day and was comfortable in hitting the unusual shots you needed to hit out there today," said Appleby referring to the windy conditions and the half shots he was forced to hit.

Appleby has a liking for the New South Wales Golf club having finished runner up in two events at the famed layout earlier in his career. He finished second behind Andrew Coltart in the 1997 Australian PGA Championship and in 2003 finished runner up to Paul Casey at the Modified Stableford ANZ Championship.

"This is one of my favourite courses. It is very demanding but still very fair. They have got the balance right."

Appleby suggested it was one of his best rounds in such conditions and felt he was back playing with the same sort of feeling he had when winning at Kapalua a couple of years ago.

"I haven't had scores like this but there has been enough in my game of late that I should have had more rounds under par than I have had." It was perhaps an ominous warning to the rest of the field.

Queenslander Hend, one of the longest hitters in this field, produced eight birdies in his round although it wasn't his length that made the difference. "I only used the driver four times out there," said Hend when asked if his length was an advantage."

Hend was also lavish in his praise of the golf course. "I love this course," he said. "It reminds of playing courses in Scotland and playing courses down in Melbourne at the National so I really enjoy it."

After two seasons playing the USPGA Tour, Hend is now focusing his attention of the Asian Tour and is currently in 4th position on their 2009 money list, much of that when finishing third at the lucrative Singapore Open. He is a player good enough to have finished third behind Zach Johnson at the Bell South tournament in the USA when on the PGA Tour, has won one event on the Asian Tour and has won several tournaments at Von Nida Tour level in this country.

PGA Tour rookie, James Nitties, is at five under along with 31 year old Victorian Peter Wilson, while Adam Scott, former winner Stephen Allan and American David Oh are at 4 under.

Nitties comes off two good finishes at the Australian Masters where he finished 5th and at last week's NSW Open where he finished one shot behind the eventual winner Leigh McKechnie. After an impressive first season on the PGA Tour, Nitties is well placed to continue his recent good form.

After damaging his shoulder in a surfing accident late early this year, Wilson has played well in recent weeks at a lesser level with several god finishes in events such as the WA PGA and the NSW PGA Championship where a double bogey at his last hole cost him a share of second place. Allan does have some form on the golf course having played well when runner up to Andrew Coltart here in 1997 and Oh is 29 year old American Korean who was a previous winner of the Junior World Championship.

27 players broke par on day one in what, compared to what NSW can dish up, good conditions. The wind tomorrow is expected to be from the northwest although a late change is expected to see increasing south westerly winds putting the afternoon field to the test on day two.

The disappointment of the day was the effort of the pre tournament favourite Geoff Ogilvy whose round of 73 has him seven behind the lead. He will get the chance to improve in the morning conditions of day two but he will need to as he has 40 players ahead of him nearing the end of round one.


Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to newsletters.

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.

More Articles from Bruce Young