Date: May 09, 2008

Elkington leads Aussie charge

Australian veteran Steve Elkington has wound back the clock to head the Australian charge at the Players Championship in Florida. The 45-year-old fired an opening-round 69 at the famous Sawgrass TPC to be three shots shy of first-day frontrunner Sergio Garcia of Spain. Elkington, who last won the tournament referred to as golf&aposs &aposfifth major&apos back in 1997, was one of the first out on the course and benefited. Garcia was another early riser to cash in, taking advantage of idyllic morning conditions to record seven birdies in a six-under-par 66, heading Americans Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos by two strokes. Aaron Baddeley (71) joined Elkington in the red to be the only other Australian to break par with Rod Pampling (72) even with the card. Geoff Ogilvy (77), Stephen Leaney (77) and Nathan Green (78) found the going tough and must find their touch to make the cut. Elkington, a two-time winner of the prestigious event, hit back from a shaky start which included two bogeys in his first three holes. His round was capped with another bogey at the 18th, but six birdies was good enough for a share of fourth place. “I was very happy with my round,&apos&apos Elkington, the two-time winner at Sawgrass, said. “It&aposs not really so much exciting, because there&aposs a lot of work left, so you can&apost really jump up and down about it, but it is certainly a nice way to start.&apos&apos Baddeley said his troubles started at the tee. “My driver didn&apost want to work but I was happy with the way I ground it out. I got up-and-down twice for bogey after hitting it in the water.” Garcia found his long lost putting touch to take the lead. “I played very smart, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and I made some good putts,” said Garcia, last year&aposs runner-up. “I&aposve been close two or three times (here), so I&aposm looking forward to giving myself plenty more chances.” Masters champion Trevor Immelman pulled out of the game&aposs richest tournament after falling ill overnight. First Round Scores from the Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach FL -6: Sergio Garcia 66 -4: Kenny Perry 68, Paul Goydos 68 -3: Heath Slocum 69, Steve Elkington (Australia) 69, Ian Poulter 69, Niclas Fasth 69, Todd Hamilton 69 -2: John Merrick 70, Nicholas Thompson 70, Brett Quigley 70, Fred Couples 70, Troy Matteson 70, Angel Cabrera 70, Phil Mickelson 70, Kevin Stadler 70, Jose Maria Olazabal 70, Ben Crane 70, Miguel A. Jimenez 70, Anthony Kim 70 Also: -1: Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 71 E: Rod Pampling (Australia) 72, Stuart Appleby (Australia) 72 1: Nick O Hern (Australia) 73 2: Matthew Goggin (Australia) 74, Robert Allenby (Australia) 74, Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 74 3: Adam Scott (Australia) 75, Matt Jones (Australia) 75 4: John Senden (Australia) 76, Tim Wilkinson (New Zealand) 5: Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 77, Stephen Leaney (Australia) 77, Peter Lonard (Australia) 77 6: Nathan Green (Australia) 78, Mark Hensby (Australia) 78