Date: February 19, 2009
Author: Paul Barbieri at the Vines, Sportal

Derksen fires at the Vines

Robert-Jan Derksen blitzed the opening day of the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Vines, the Dutchman leading with an eight-under 64 after surviving a late charge from veteran Queenslander Tony Carolan. Derksen may have gone into the tournament having suffered heat stroke during last weekend&aposs Malaysian Open, but the 35-year-old took advantage of the cooler morning conditions to produce a flawless round highlighted by eight birdies. But despite appearing safe in the lead throughout the afternoon, Derkson&aposs lead suddenly came under threat from Carolan, one of the last to tee off, who shrugged off a tricky late afternoon breeze to post an eagle on his ninth hole (the 18th) that was very nearly an albatross. Five birdies on the back nine followed but Carolan couldn&apost quite match Derksen, finishing the round tied for second with Singapore&aposs Mardan Mamat on seven-under. English pair Lee Westwood and John Bickerton are a further stroke behind, tied for fourth alongside Ireland&aposs Damien McGrane, having signed off on six-under 66. “I have shot a lot of 65s (on the European Tour) but never a 64,” Derksen said. “It&aposs a good start and it&aposs always nice to have, it&aposs as simple as that but there&aposs a lot of golf to be played.” “There are not a lot of easy holes and I made three par fives today. But if you&aposre slightly off, you can make some big numbers I think as well,” he said. Derksen began slowly as he struggled with his putting game, but having posted his first birdie at the fifth hole, he turned for home at three-under before firing up on the back nine with a further five birdies, including a 28-yard putt on the 14th as he finished one stroke adrift of Padraig Harrington&aposs course record. Mamat also produced eight birdies in his opening round, a single bogey preventing him sharing the lead, the Asian Tour veteran saying credit for his performance must go to caddie Drew Dubberlin, who provided invaluable local knowledge. Westwood, meanwhile had an unassuming round starting from the 10th tee. The world No. 11 produced three birdies and a bogey on his opening nine, before consolidating his position with four birdies coming home. His compatriot Bickerton came from nowhere, though. At one-over after eight holes, the Englishman produced an eagle at the par five ninth that set him in motion, following it up with four consecutive birdies and another on his final hole. Like Derksen and Mamat, McGrane also managed eight birdies in his round, but the Irishman also signed for two bogeys. While tournament drawcard Greg Norman was expected to fly the flag for the Australasian contingent after an impressive 2008 British Open, the Shark was usurped by Carolan and a scene-stealing performance from 18-year-old New Zealand amateur Danny Lee. Lee and Australian Clint Rice both finished with five-under 67s to be part of a seven-strong group tied for seventh. They are joined by Ireland&aposs Peter Lawrie, Japan&aposs Hiroyuki Fujita, Spaniard Ignacio Garrido, Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, and American Anthony Kang, the latter three having played late in the day when conditions were hotter and a gusty, swirling wind prevailed. A stroke further back at four-under is American Anthony Kim (15) alongside Australians Scott Laycock, David McKenzie, Scott Hend, Adam Blyth and Chris Gaunt. There&aposs a large group of Australasians at two-under after the first day, the most prominent being New Zealander Mark Brown, who will struggle to defend his Classic win in India last year, having fallen six strokes adrift of Derksen. Norman, meanwhile, was troubled by his putting, despite firing a birdie on his first hole of the morning. The Shark looked solid at even par after nine holes, but coming home was a disaster, Norman producing two bogeys and a double bogey before a final-hole birdie provided scant consolation. “Seventy-five is a bit of a shock to me,” said Norman. “But that&aposs my score and I&aposve got to take it.”