Date: November 28, 2008
Author: Angus Morgan at Huntingdale

Hend and Clark lead the way

Florida-based Queenslander Scott Hend and South African Tim Clark are the clubhouse leaders at the 2008 Australian Masters after a violent electrical storm swept across Huntingdale on Thursday afternoon, delaying play for almost three hours. Hailstones, lightning and a succession of heavy showers pummelled the course not long after play was formally suspended at 4.04pm local time. The weather cleared in time, however, to squeeze in about 90 minutes&apos play from 7.00pm. The break was a blessing for Clark who picked up two strokes when he returned to complete his final four holes in conditions far more benign than when play was postponed. “Obviously the wind was a lot calmer and from a different direction and the greens had softened up so it was a totally different course,” Clark said. “It was tough this morning with the wind but I was happy with how I was playing this morning, too, so overall, I&aposll take that score.” The highlight of Clark&aposs earlier exploits was a pair of eagles at the 490-metre par-five seventh and the 453-metre par-five 10th, both of which were playing downwind and ripe for the picking. “I had two eagles all year on the US Tour so that was quite a shock for me, but downwind they were reachable and … that was where you had to make your score up on a day like this,” he said. Tournament favourite, Robert Allenby, who&aposs aiming to repeat his achievements of 2005 by clean-sweeping the Masters, PGA and Australian Open in successive weeks, found the afternoon going tough. The champion at Huntingdale in 2003 and 2005 finished at plus-one. A total of 48 players will need to complete their unfinished first rounds on Friday morning, none of which is of any great concern to Hend who signed-in at lunchtime for a five-under 67. He and Clark lead by two shots from Australians Anthony Brown and Michael Wright and England&aposs Daniel Wardrop who completed rounds of 69. Queenslander Chris Downes was at three-under after 12 holes when darkness forced play to be finally called off. Out on the course early, Hend made light of a hot, swirling north wind for his 67 which left him well clear of more fancied rivals such as Stuart Appleby (74), John Daly (76) and three-time Masters champion Craig Parry (76), all of whom also completed morning rounds. Returning gradually to full fitness after straining elbow ligaments lifting boxes of tiles at home in Ponte Vedra in August, Hend said a positive mindset and solid game plan served him well on Thursday. “I&aposm never surprised when I play good, I&aposm disappointed when I play bad,” he said. “Self-belief and confidence, that&aposs all it is with a golfer.” “Most of us can hit it pretty much the same – good quality, good putters – but self-belief and confidence is where it all is.” “I was pretty much a hothead, but I&aposve learned to control that and control my emotions on the course as well which leads obviously to more positive thoughts and good scores.” The 35-year-old, whose best result at Huntingdale is a tie for seventh in 2001, described the greens as a pleasure to putt on and said his general game plan worked well. Six birdies and just the one blemish, a bogey at the par-four fourth, represented a satisfying day&aposs work. “My target was to be as aggressive as possible downwind, and then just try and make a par into the wind,” Hend said. “It was just aggressive then defensive, back and forward.” Daly said he focused on survival in the torrid conditions and kept his major weapon, his driver, under wraps for much of the round. By his own admission, the two-time major winner, who finished bogey-bogey, never came to terms with the wind. “It was blowing from the get-go,” Daly said. “This was just a day when I &apossupposed&apos on so many shots instead of knowing.”