Date: April 17, 2009
Author: PA Sport and Sportal

Aussies off to a flyer

A trio of Australians have fired rounds of 68 to finish the opening day in a tie for sixth spot at the Verizon Heritage in South Carolina. Rod Pampling, Aron Price and Stephen Leaney are all well in contention at the Harbour Town Golf Links, just four shots off Germany&aposs Alex Cejka who has the clubhouse lead on minus seven. As the PGA Tour resumed play following last weekend&aposs Masters, Cejka shot a bogey-free seven-under-par opening round of 64, while Spanish veteran Jose Maria Olazabal shot a three-under 68 as both continued comebacks from injuries. Cejka leads the tournament by one stroke from American Lee Janzen, who fired a 65, the two-time US Open champion posting an inward nine of 31 having started on the 10th tee for only his fourth sub-70 round of the year. The German is still recovering from neck surgery he underwent last September having pinched a nerve at the Open last July and he returned to action at the start of the year looking only to get fit. “My goal is to stay healthy,” Cejka said. “The last couple of years, I&aposve been a little bit unlucky, a little bit injured. I had the neck surgery, also, where I was off for three months. “I just lost all my strength in the left side. So it was tough to come back. “So just hopefully everything stays well and I get healthy and practice hard. Olazabal&aposs battle with rheumatism has been longer lasting and the two-time Masters champion has been restricted to six appearances in each of the last two years. The 43-year-old Spaniard returned to action this year on a major medical extension in the US, reappearing at the Masters where he missed the cut. He made amends on Thursday, however, with a one-bogey, four-birdie 68 to end the first round in a tie for sixth place, four strokes off Cejka&aposs lead. “It&aposs a golf course where you have to hit it really straight off the tee with its narrow fairways and very small greens,” Olazabal told PGA Network Radio. “If you don&apost strike the ball well you&aposre not going to score but I managed to do that today, keep the ball in play and make a couple of putts. That was it.” “I haven&apost been able to play for more than a year and I need to do the best I can and that&aposs what I&aposm going to try to do this week.” “I&aposve been as healthy as I can remember and for the last three weeks it&aposs been good. It hasn&apost been like that for a long time so I want to try to make the best use of it.” South Africa&aposs Trevor Immelman failed to successfully defend his Masters title at Augusta but put disappointing early-season form behind him to finish in a tie for 20th in the opening major of the year. That good form continued at Harbour Town where, despite closing with a bogey five on the ninth hole, Immelman shot a five-under 66 to finish the day in third place. Meanwhile, Australian David McKenzie is just one shot behind leader Markus Brier after the first round of the China Open. McKenzie surged up the leaderboard following an eagle at the 377-yard, par-four fifth when he holed his second shot from 102 yards. Two further birdies followed to haul the Australian firmly in contention at four-under. “I have felt like I&aposm swinging the club well and the technique&aposs good but I just haven&apost been getting the scores that I feel I should for the way I&aposve been hitting it,” McKenzie said. “So I&aposm looking forward to playing well here this week. I kept it on the fairway and I didn&apost hit it in the rough. I had it in play all day which makes it a lot easier to score.” Fellow Australians Scott Strange and Matthew Millar are among a group of five players in a share of sixth place at two-under, while Peter O&aposMalley is a stroke further back in equal 11th alongside Victorian Craig Scott and New Zealand&aposs Mark Brown. Victorian Brad Kennedy finished even with the card alongside defending champion Damien McGrane of Ireland, while Kiwi Michael Long and Australian Aaron Townsend were one-over alongside tournament drawcard Colin Montgomerie, who holed out from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the 18th to record a 73 in his first China Open. Austrian Brier admitted he rode his luck at times but still felt he was good value for his one-stroke lead. Brier, who won the tournament in 2007, carded a five-under-par 67 and holds a narrow advantage over England&aposs Nick Dougherty and McKenzie, with Simon Dyson and Chapchai Nirat a shot further back on three-under. Leading scores after Round 1 of the Verizon Heritage: -7 Alex Cejka (Germany) -6 Lee Janzen (United States) -5 Trevor Immelman (South Africa) -4 Brian Gay (United States), Ted Purdy (United States) -3 Rod Pampling (Australia), Bill Haas (United States), Aron Price (Australia), Stephen Leaney (Australia), Tim Petrovic (United States), Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain), Cliff Kresge (United States), Todd Hamilton (United States), Ernie Els (South Africa), Jeff Maggert (United States), Bob Estes (United States) -2 Ken Duke (United States), Briny Baird (United States), Scott Piercy (United States), Dean Wilson (United States) Also: -1 Nathan Green (Australia) E Steve Elkington (Autralia) +1 Peter Lonard (Australia), Marc Leishman (Australia) Leading scores after Round 1 of the China Open: -5: Markus Brier (Austria) -4: David McKenzie (Australia), Nick Dougherty (England) -3: Chapchai Nirat (Thailand), Simon Dyson (England) -2: Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand), Chinnarat Phadungsil (Thailand), Choi Ho-sung (Korea), Matthew Millar (Australia), Scott Strange (Australia) -1: Song Ki-joon (Korea), Richard Finch (England), Mark Brown (New Zealand), Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (France), Craig Scott (Australia), Peter O&aposMalley (Australia), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spain), Maarten Lafeber (Netherlands) Also: E: Brad Kennedy (Australia) +1: Aaron Townsend (Australia), Michael Long (New Zealand) +2: Brett Rumford (Australia), Chris Gaunt (Australia), Marcus Fraser (Australia), David Gleeson (Australia), Wade Ormsby (Australia) +3: Jason King (Australia), Ashley Hall (Australia), Anthony Brown (Australia), Stuart Bouvier (Australia) +4: Anthony Summers (Australia), Kurt Barnes (Australia), Peter Wilson (Australia), Adam Crawford (Australia), Tim Wood (Australia) +5: Scott Laycock (Australia), Ryan Haller (Australia), Michael Moore (Australia) +8: Tristan Lambert (Australia), Michael Curtain (Australia) +9: Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) +10: Terry Price (Australia)