Date: August 07, 2009
Author: Sportal and PA Sport

Allenby in WGC mix

Robert Allenby, fresh from announcing his intention to play in this year&aposs Australian Masters, carded a two-under 70 to sit in a six-way tie for eighth place after the opening round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He is joined on two-under by 19-year-old Kiwi Danny Lee, who is the youngest player ever to have contested a World Golf Championship event, world No.1 and six-time Firestone winner Tiger Woods as well as fellow American Hunter Mahan and Spain&aposs Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sergio Garcia. Allenby and Lee lead the Australasian assault behind leader Padraig Harrington. Seven days before he is due to defend his US PGA Championship title at Hazeltine National and following a year of disappointing results as the Irishman has sought to improve his swing, Harrington shot a six-under-par 64. Two weeks after relinquishing the Open title for the first time in three years, Harrington arrived in the United States in extremely positive mood and that translated into an excellent opening round of golf as he opened with a birdie at the 10th hole on the tough, 7,400-yard, par-70 South Course, the first of six in a bogey-free round. Harrington will take a two-stroke lead into the second round over playing partner Scott Verplank of the USA and early pacesetters Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and South Africa&aposs Tim Clark. England&aposs Ian Poulter is a further shot behind at three-under following a 67, a score matched by Americans Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. Teeing off in the morning groups, Allenby started slowly with a bogey at the first but quickly recovered with a birdie at the par-five second. A birdie, bogey result on seven and eight had him even at the turn before he steadied to come home with an unblemished back nine that included birdies at 11 and 18. “I&aposm pretty happy with the way I played considering my form hasn&apost been that great of late,” he said. “Usually it&aposs my putting and short game that I work on, but my ball striking needed some work, so I&aposve been practicing up to seven hours a day and I hit it well today. Hopefully this will be the start of things coming together.” World No.8 Geoff Ogilvy is a further shot back finishing the day at one-under after dropping two shots in his last six holes. Ogilvy, winner of the 2009 Mercedes Benz Championship and WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, bogeyed the 4th and 17th. “I could have been a couple better but it could be worse around here,” said Ogilvy. “There are a lot of fairways that are virtually impossible to hit and when you don&apost, it&aposs a very frustrating place.” Nick O&aposHern is at two-over, while Tasmanian Mat Goggin and Victorian Stuart Appleby both shot opening rounds of 73. Nathan Green is at four-over and Adam Scott could only manage an eight-over 78. Open champion Stewart Cink, playing for the first time since defeating Tom Watson in a play-off at Turnberry last month to claim his first major victory, was in a large group at one-under. Defending champion Vijay Singh, world No.2 Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Angel Cabrera were in another large group that posted level-par 70s. Mickelson, returning to golf after taking six weeks off to care for his wife Amy as she began treatment for breast cancer, showed some rustiness with a double-bogey six at his second hole of the day, the 11th, and went out in a three-over 38 only to claw his way back with three birdies on the back nine. World No.3 Paul Casey was forced to quit the tournament after only six holes. The Englishman, a three-time winner in 2009, was level par for his round when he teed off at the seventh, immediately clutching his chest as he sent his ball into right rough. He decided to withdraw soon afterwards, complaining of a pulled muscle in his ribcage.