Date: May 22, 2009
Author: PA Sport and Sportal

Nitties in the lead

James Nitties has finished the first round at the Byron Nelson Championship with a share of the lead after firing four straight birdies on the final four holes to end the day at five-under-par. Nitties&apos front nine was steady, with two birdies and one bogey, but it was on the back nine where the young Australian prospered. Nitties began his great run at the 15th, rolling in a 5-foot putt. On the next two holes Nitties hit two more putts from inside 15 feet, before topping it off with another five-footer on the 18th. Robert Allenby is two shots adrift of Nitties and co-leader American Ken Duke after he fired a three-under-par 67 to open his tournament. Fellow Australians Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers are in a tie for 19th after carding opening rounds of 68. Compatriot and defending champion Adam Scott had a more difficult opening round, beginning with bogeys on his opening two holes. Scott did manage to bounce back from his wayward start, with three birdies in the next six holes, but the comeback turned out to be brief with Scott eventually finishing the day with a 71. Meanwhile in Wentworth, England&aposs David Horsey has taken a share of the first-round lead in the BMW PGA Championship. As Phil Mickelson began indefinite leave from golf because of his wife Amy&aposs breast cancer, Horsey spoke of his mother&aposs battle with the disease following a five-under-par 67. “She&aposs at home watching the live scoring and watching on the TV and hopefully it has kept her going,” said the 24-year-old Cheshire golfer, who jointly heads the European Tour&aposs flagship event with compatriot Anthony Wall and also Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. “She never really talks about it that way but hopefully I&aposve helped in that respect.” “She was diagnosed at the end of last year and and just had her last chemo(therapy) yesterday. She&aposs got three weeks of radiotherapy coming up shortly and hopefully that will be it but she won&apost get the all-clear obviously until three or four years down the line.” “It&aposs been tough – it&aposs always at the back of my mind. My mum&aposs always been very strong through it and my dad has obviously been there for her.” “I do try hard not to think about it when I&aposm playing and what she would want for me is to keep on playing.” Tour rookie Horsey, a team-mate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup and winner of last season&aposs Challenge circuit, was the first of the 150-strong field to tee off at 7am. He was one over after five holes of his debut but birdied the next two, added another on the 12th and finished with three more. Londoner Wall, only two groups behind him, also came home in a four-under 33, while British Masters champion Fernandez-Castano went birdie-eagle on the last two. The biggest surprise of the day was the 78 of Henrik Stenson, who on his last appearance two weeks ago played arguably the best final round of the year to capture the Players Championship in Florida. The Swede, however, was not as shocked as others might be – he has never finished higher than eighth in eight appearances at the event and he spent last week on holiday in the Bahamas. Stenson, at fourth in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, gave a tennis analogy. “Some like hard courts, some like clay. This is not my surface,” he said. “I find it difficult to pick the shots and to judge how the ball will react.” Ryder Cup team-mates Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have stayed away again this year but, asked if he had considered joining them, Stenson stated: “BMW has been a great supporter of the Tour and me personally, so I think it&aposs important to be here.” For a while he was the worst score in the clubhouse but 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell took eight on the long 17th and came in with a 79, then 2007 French Open champion Graeme Storm finished six-seven for 80 and Ireland&aposs Gary Murphy had a nine on the 383-yard 16th in his 82. Lee Westwood looked as if he might be topping that when he had four successive bogeys from the 12th to crash to seven over. After birdies at the last two for 77, he quipped: “At least I beat Henrik by one.” “I just didn&apost play very well – that can happen here.” He was joint second to Colin Montgomerie in 2000 but missed five of the next six cuts and has not had a top 10 since. As for Montgomerie, he hit back from his closing 80 at the Irish Open with a three-under 69, the same as world No.7 Paul Casey and last season&aposs European No.1 Robert Karlsson. “One 69 is okay but what I have to do is put another one on the board, then another one,” said the Ryder Cup captain. “If I can do that, I&aposll be thrilled.” “I have to set my goals the way they were – to win. I feel capable of it still and it&aposs just a matter of going out and proving it to myself.” “I haven&apost been doing that.” Before Ireland he missed two cuts in a row and bowed out of the Spanish Open with an 81. Masters champion Angel Cabrera failed to make his presence felt in the way he wanted, shooting 74, and American John Daly was only one better than that along with Ernie Els. With rounds taking more than five and a half hours, there was the chance of one of the late starters stealing the show after nearly all the fans had gone home. Southport&aposs Lee Slattery had the chance when he reached three under with birdies at the 11th and 12th.