Date: August 12, 2008

Aussies in hunt at Wyndham

Peter Lonard, John Senden and Mark Hensby are among a large group of players three shots off the pace after the opening round of the Wyndham Championship. Lonard, who could only manage 68th at last week&aposs US PGA, rebounded strongly to card a four-under 66 to trail leaders Martin Laird from Scotland and Bob Heintz from the USA. Joining the three Australians is New Zealand&aposs Tim Wilkinson, while Matt Jones, Mathew Goggin, Brett Rumford, Nick Flanagan and Kiwi Danny Lee are at two-under. Laird said it would be &aposobscene&apos to even think about making the European Ryder Cup team after moving to the top of the leaderboard. Boosted by an eagle at the par-four 13th, where he holed out from the rough from 116 yards, the 25-year-old from Glasgow carded a 63 at Sedgefield to finish in a tie for the lead with Heintz, one stroke ahead of Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson, Scott Sterling and Garrett Willis. Laird, a PGA Tour rookie who came to the United States eight years ago on a golf scholarship at Colorado State, was thinking about the Ryder Cup at the start of the year, but his form until recently has been such that it has slipped from his thoughts. “It&aposs definitely not on my mind, but if I won this week and next, who knows,” said Laird, who has never even spoken to European captain Nick Faldo. “I had to play early and get in the limelight.” “I lost all confidence for about two months and that was killing me but I&aposve been playing good the last month.” Laird finished tied fourth in his most recent start at the Reno-Tahoe Open, after coming equal 22nd at the previous week&aposs Canadian Open, which was won by his good friend Chez Reavie. “We were rooming in Toronto,” added Laird. “I saw him win wire to wire, every step with him, because at night he would come back and talk about it. He said to me Sunday night &aposif I can do it, you can do it&apos.” “After seeing one of your friends you know you&aposre all kind of the same standard, it definitely gives you a bit of a confidence boost to see that you can do it.” Laird made a confidence-boosting start here by sinking an eight-foot putt to save par at the first hole. “In a funny sense, that was kind of a good start,” he said. “I holed a nice putt right in the middle. I walked off the green thinking the stroke feels good already.” If Laird has not quite set the tour on fire this year, 162nd on the money list, Heintz has fared only marginally better, ranked 161st, but he carded eight birdies and one bogey. “It wasn&apost perfect golf,” said the 38-year-old native of Syosset, on New York&aposs Long Island. “It was well managed and if you had to pinpoint something, it was distance control. When I was uncomfortable with a certain hole location, I just hit the ball in the middle of the green to give myself an easy two-putt.” Clark, meanwhile, bogeyed the tough par-four 18th to fall out of the lead, but had few complaints. “I&aposm right in it, very happy with six under,” said the South African, who played his college golf at North Carolina State in nearby Raleigh. World No.5 Vijay Singh, the highest-ranked player in a relatively sparse field, carded 69 on a day when the field averaged less than 69 strokes, due to soft greens and little wind. The tournament, previously known as the Greater Greensboro Open, was first held in 1938. It has returned to Sedgefield this year for the first time since 1976. Wyndham Championships, North Carolina Results Round 1 -7: Martin Laird 63, Bob Heintz 63 -6: Tim Clark 64, Carl Pettersson 64, Scott Sterling 64, Garrett Willis 64 -5: Steve Marino 65, Ken Duke 65, Scott McCarron 65, Bob Sowards 65 -4: Billy Andrade 66, Jerry Kelly 64, Jeff Maggert 66, Brandt Snedeker 66, Peter Lonard (Australia) 66, Mark Hensby (Australia) 66, Patrick Sheehan 66, Stephen Poole 66, Robert Garrigus 66, Kent Jones 66, Zach Johnson 66, John Senden (Australia) 66, Davis Love III 66, Dean Wilson 66, Lucas Glover 66, Tim Wilkinson (New Zealand) 66, Glen Day 66, Kevin Streelman 66, Jason Dufner 66 Also: -2: Matt Jones (Australia) 68, Mathew Goggin (Australia) 68, Brett Rumford (Australia) 68, Nick Flanagan (Australia) 68, Danny Lee (New Zealand) 68 -1: David Lutterus (Australia) 69 E: Andrew Buckle (Australia) 70 +1: Gavin Coles (Australia) 71, Steve Allan (Australia) 71, Nathan Green (Australia) 71, Jason Day (Australia) 71