Date: November 16, 2006
Author: Luke Buttigieg

Green on top in Sydney

By Luke Buttigieg, Sportal Cold, wet, windy conditions were the order of the day early on Thursday at the MFS Australian Open at Royal Sydney, but that didn&apost stop Nathan Green shooting an amazing five-under 67 to grab the outright lead. Heavy overnight rain continued during the morning and into the afternoon in the New South Wales capital, with the temperature hovering in the mid-teens, but Green seemed impervious to the conditions as he collected six birdies and just one bogey in a superb display. Two shots behind Green after signing for 69s are his namesake, Richard, the 2004 MasterCard Masters champion, and Victorian Jarrod Lyle, who first rose to prominence with a tie for third at the 2005 Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne. Two strokes further adrift after 71s are 2003 and 2004 champion Peter Lonard, Queenslander Ryan Haller and Victorian Andrew Martin in fourth, just ahead of US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Steven Bowditch, Luke Hickmott and Glen Dick. Mathew Goggin, Nick O&aposHern and Peter O&aposMalley all finished with 73s and share 11th place, while Brett Rumford, favourite Adam Scott and Paul Sheehan are equal 20th on plus two. Dual champion Aaron Baddeley shot 75, along with Stuart Appleby, Paul Gow and American Kevin Stadler, while Queenslander John Senden, Marcus Fraser and Anthony Painter share 36th after carding 76s. Faring even worse were Nathan Green&aposs playing partners, with 17-year-old amateur Matthew Giles scoring two birdies but also collecting seven bogeys en route to a 77 and a share of 48th alongside last year&aposs winner Robert Allenby, while five-time champion Greg Norman followed a birdie at 11 with eight bogeys, including five in succession from the second. Starting from the 10th hole, Nathan Green was a model of consistency with five straight pars, before he birdied the 15th and 16th holes, only to give one of the shots back at the 18th when his chip rolled back down off the front of the green. That stumble was quickly forgotten though as Green went on to grab consecutive birdies at the first and second holes and two more in his final three holes at the seventh and ninth. “I think it was a big advantage hitting off the back nine today,” Green said. “It was pretty good, I think. The conditions were tough, I didn&apost hit the ball unbelievable off the tee but it was going straight which is sort of all you have to do on a day like today to try and keep it in play.” “Putting-wise it was really solid. I&aposve probably had better ball-striking rounds but I pretty much got everything out of the round I could&aposve today. I&aposm not sure where I&aposd put it in an order but it was just one of those rounds where you walk off feeling like you didn&apost let any get away.” Richard Green was three strokes clear when he opened with four birdies inside the first seven holes from the 10th, only to drop two shots with bogeys at 17 and 18, before he came home with birdies at seven and nine, with a bogey sandwiched in between. “Probably about 63 I reckon, maybe 64, something like that,” Green said when asked what score he may have shot in better conditions. “I putted really well today and normally when I putt that good I usually have a round of golf like that.” “It looks promising, I just hope my swing hangs in there in the wind, normally I get a bit blown away after a few days but we&aposll see how we go. It was all about just hanging in there.” Ogilvy did get to two-under through seven holes with birdies at the 10th and the 16th, but bogeys at the 17th and fourth holes cost him a lower score, even if he wasn&apost too disappointed with his display afterwards. “The wind&aposs up and down,” he said. “It&aposs hard work, but I didn&apost do too much damage. The idea is to not be out of the tournament on a day like this. They&aposll be a lot of guys out there who&aposll be out of it by the end of today.” “You&aposve just got to chip away. It&aposs the Australian Open, you&aposve only one chance at it every year, so you just try to make sure you don&apost get out of it on the first day.”