Date: November 21, 2013
Author: Martin Blake / Royal Melbourne Golf Club

Bjorn, Streelman lead World Cup

The official world golf rankings have Kevin Streelman as the 21st-best American player, and he was a late call-up for the World Cup when Gary Woodland withdrew a month ago. That he could walk on to Royal Melbourne for a first glimpse and promptly tie the lead in a $7 million tournament is evidence of the incredible depth of American golf. As for Thomas Bjorn, he has a love affair with Royal Melbourne that dates back many years. The Norwegian veteran woke up and knew he felt like playing because of the venue, not least the gravity of the event. On a day when the raging favourite Adam Scott carded a quintuple bogey and put himself into a tough and unfamiliar spot of bother, Streelman and Bjorn both shot five-under-par 66 on the composite course to share the lead in the individual section of the tournament. Streelman (world ranked 46) and Bjorn (44th) are both world class, and they picked their way around in the fluky breezes with aplomb. Scott&aposs hopes have faded with a four-over 75, but his compatriot Jason Day shot a 68 to keep Australia&aposs hopes in the teams event alive. Day is tied-sixth after the first round, but Scott has some serious work to do. The USA and Denmark are tied in the lead for the teams event at five-under, six shots ahead of the Australians. Streelman, 35, had called upon the local knowledge of a Royal Melbourne member, Darcy Brereton, 19, in the lead-up to the event, with stunning success. Brereton caddied for the American in the pro-am and passed on some jewels on the nuances of the green complexes. “He just knew every break on these greens,&apos&apos said Streelman. Actually he might have done better; he made bogeys at two of the past three holes on the tough inward stretch, having reached seven-under through the 14th. A plugged lie in the bunker at the 18th scarcely helped, but Streelman, a student and lover of golf course architecture, raved about the experience, comparing it with Augusta National. “It&aposs an incredible golf course, it&aposs a treat to play. I was able to keep the ball below the holes, some of those pin positions were rather difficult. It&aposs a course you have to be so careful on. I was able to put the ball in the right position and make some really nice birdie putts and some nice par-saves as well. It&aposs a nice start.&apos&apos Bjorn had his moments, too, notably at the huge fourth green where he four-putted from 10 metres, having a longer third putt than his second and turning a potential birdie into a double bogey. “I thought &aposwell this could be a long day&apos,&apos&apos he said later. “But I just kind of kept my composure and made some good birdies and kept playing solid all the way to the end. It was a nice day. “You know, you wake up in the morning and when you are 42 years old it s not every time you think, &aposI am going to go and play golf today&apos. But when you are going to go and play Royal Melbourne you kind of get excited about it. You know, it is, in my eyes, probably the finest golf course you can ever play. You can t get carried away. You have got to play smart golf and I could play every day for the rest of my life.&apos&apos Streelman sensed a “British Open feel&apos&apos to the course, with the greens running at what Welsh player Stuart Manley called &apos&aposscary&apos&apos. With its emphasis on angles and keeping the ball under the hole, he drew upon advice offered by two Australian professionals he consulted at home in Arizona, Andrew Getson and Nigel Spence. “That&aposs what makes a great golf course great. It doesn&apost have to be 8000 yards,&apos&apos said Streelman. “It&aposs very difficult but it&aposs also to a degree it&aposs straight-forward. You&aposve got to be below this pin, you can&apost miss here, you can&apost miss there. Two or three days of studying the course got us a good idea, we checked the wind direction and went from there. “The most important thing is below the hole. It seems like it runs at 15 stimp (meter) going down the hill and then it&aposs a six going up.&apos&apos LEADING SCORES 66 Kevin Streelman (USA), Thomas Bjorn (Norway) 67 Stuart Manley (Wales), KJ Choi (Sth Korea), Martin Laird (Scotland) 68 Jason Day (Aust), Ricardo Santos (Portugal), Danny Willett (Eng). TEAMS EVENT -5 Denmark, USA -2 Portugal -1 Scotland, South Korea, Canada