Date: May 29, 2009
Author: Sportal

Baker-Finch back on tour

Ian Baker-Finch provided the feelgood story on the opening day of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial by carding a two-under 68 in his first competitive round since 2001. The 48-year-old Australian, now better known as a commentator, needed just 26 putts in a round that included five birdies and three bogeys. Baker-Finch, who quit golf after missing the cut at Colonial eight years ago following a long struggle with his game, is in the field this week thanks to a past champions exemption. He won this tournament in 1989 and also captured the 1991 British Open. But a lengthy rough patch – including 29 consecutive tournaments where he missed the cut or withdrew – saw him retire from professional golf. “I&aposm extremely happy with 68. I wanted to shoot better than par, and I wanted to compete. I played a lot of holes very well today,” Baker-Finch said. He trails Americans Woody Austin and Steve Stricker and South African Tim Clark by five shots after the trio posted rounds of seven-under 63. Of those three only Stricker returned a blemished card after he bogeyed the par-three 4th, but eight further birdies ensured he joined the leaders one stroke ahead of Ryder Cup star Kenny Perry and Vijay Singh who are tied for fourth at six-under. Australian rookie Jason Day continued his good form on the US tour and is in a share of sixth place at five-under. Compatriots James Nitties and Aron Price are tied for 14th after completing rounds of three-under 67, while Adam Scott and Mathew Goggin are a further shot back at two-under alongside Baker-Finch. New Zealand rookie Danny Lee is at one-under. Meanwhile, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter continued their impressive form in the first round, the pair carded four-under-par 66s to be three shots off the clubhouse lead. Casey, winner of the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday and up to third in the world rankings, stayed in touch with the leaders following a steady day around Colonial. The 31-year-old got off to the perfect start with birdies at the 1st and 5th before saving par on the 7th after finding a fairway bunker off the tee. Casey did drop a shot at the 8th but bounced back on the next with a birdie from 14 feet to reach the turn in 33. He recorded par on his next six holes before back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 kept him in touching distance at the top. Poulter, second to Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson in the Players Championship earlier this month, started from the 10th and birdied his opening hole. He missed out on a birdie at the par-five 11th, but made amends with another on the 12th. The 33-year-old picked up another shot on the 16th to reach the turn in 32, and added a fourth on the third. His only setback came with a double-bogey six on the 5th, but he bounced straight back with a birdie on the 6th and added another on the 8th. England&aposs Greg Owen and Luke Donald carded opening round 68s to lie two under, while Justin Rose was a stroke further back. Elsewhere, Marcus Fraser is four shots off the pace at the European Open. The Australian shot an opening-round three-under to be equal 25th and trails Dane Anders Hansen who went round the London Club in a seven-under-par 65. Hansen&aposs chip-in eagle at the 563-yard 8th, his penultimate hole, gave him a one-stroke lead over England&aposs Sam Little, Swede Peter Hanson, Indian Jyoti Randhawa and South African Thomas Aiken in the race for the 300,000-pound ($AU608,300) first prize – 100,000 pounds ($AU202,700) less than Ross Fisher received last July in a sign of the times.