Marcus Fraser sent a powerful reminder that there’s nothing wrong with the depth of Australian golf today, leading the Olympic tournament after round one.
Fraser, 38, played some classical wedges and had a superb day on the greens to card a spectacular eight-under-par 63 on the Barra da Tijuca layout as golf returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
Compatriot Scott Hend began well and was in the top five at three under before a disastrous quintuple-bogey 10 on the 10th sent him crashing down the leaderboard.
The Queenslander recovered to finish at three-over, tied for 50th.
But it was Fraser who showed the non-availability of world No.1 Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman was no obstacle for the Australian contingent.
“There’s a long way to go yet, but that was a dream start and I felt like I really deserved to play well,” Fraser said after his round as the wind whipped up and made his mark even more impressive.
“The way the wind has turned now, eight under is a great score … but we play 72 holes for our tournament, not just 18, so there’s a long way to go.
“We played the first six holes with just a little bit of breeze, then it gradually picked up and the last 7-8 holes was a good test, that’s for sure.
The Corowa champ, who leads the Asian Tour’s 2016 order of merit, began with a birdie, but immediately let it slip with what turned out to be his only blemish on the second.
He then poured in four consecutive birdies to run down and then pass early leader Graham DeLaet, of Canada, whose 66 was also a fine round.
Even when Fraser found potential trouble in sand on the long par-four 11th, his deft hands ensured a clinical par save to keep the momentum rolling.
A near hole-out for eagle on the short par-four 16th was capped by another birdie on the par-five 18th, remarkably his ninth for the day.
“It’s gonna be a fun week – I can’t wait,” said Fraser, who’s based in Melbourne and plays much of his golf at Kingswood.
“It’s a pretty surreal experience, I’m trying to soak it all in and luckily enough I’m off to a good start, so I’ll just enjoy the next few days.
“It’s a brilliant course, it reminds me a lot of the Melbourne Sandbelt and that’s obviously where I play a lot of my golf.
“(Course architect) Gil Hanse has done a great job and there’s a lot of strategy to the golf course, which we like.”
His teammate Hend made a stunning start with the putter by canning a curling 10m beast on the first hole, then was blemish-free through the front nine.
But a couple of bladed bunker shots on the 10th hole brought undone all his good work.
Several big names played their way into contention with Great Britain’s Justin Rose’s ace on the par-three fourth hole the highlight of the former US Open champ’s four-under-par 67.
And another major champion, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, also continued his recent resurgence with a fine 69, while Open hero Henrik Stenson signed for a 66 including a couple of long birdie putts.
But the expected American charge, with four big-name representatives didn’t eventuate. Bubba Watson was purely and simply off his game in shooting a flat 73, while a four-putt double-bogey on the first set the tone for Rickie Fowler’s 75.
For full scores, visit http://www.igfgolf.org/olympic-games/scores/