Date: July 04, 2008

Pampling leads Aussie charge

Rod Pampling has made a strong start to the AT&T National on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club with a four-under-par first round that sees him one shot off the lead. The Australian started on the back nine and he raced away to four-under after seven holes with birdies at the 11th, 15th, 16th and 17th. However, after making par at the first three holes of the front nine, Pampling slipped up to hit bogeys at the 4th and 6th before restoring his four-under score with birdies at the 7th and 9th to finish with a round of 66. Pampling is equal-second with Americans Jeff Overton, Frank Lickliter II and Bob Estes and they are all in hot pursuit of leader Steve Marino who fired an opening five-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead. The 28-year-old Marino birdied three of his first four holes and added birdies at holes 13 and 18 during his bogey-free round. “The course is playing a little bit easier than last year,” Marino said. “I think the rough is probably half as tall as it was last year, so it gives you some leeway.” “If you miss the fairway sometimes you can hit it on the green, or at least advance it somewhere up around the green where you can get it up-and-down.” Pampling&aposs compatriot Stuart Appleby, who has five top-10 finishes this season, is among the crowd at three-under after completing a bogey-free round. “I like the way I&aposm playing and I&aposm feeling comfortable out there,” Appleby said. “I&aposve got some good stuff going on.” “The course was playing reasonably easy. Not easy as in you&aposll make a pile of birdies, but it was in front of us. The course is firming up so the ball was bouncing a little bit, but it&aposs not getting any easier.” Defending champion KJ Choi carded a two-under 68 in his first round and is in a tie for 13th place with eight others. “It&aposs a good number, two-under-par today,” Choi said. “I wasn&apost nervous and I enjoyed the round and I had a good group and the crowd was great.” World No.7 Steve Stricker, the highest-ranked player in the field and runner-up to Choi at this event last year, made three bogeys and two birdies, shooting a 71. The event is hosted by Tiger Woods, who was advised by doctors not to fly after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee three weeks ago. Meanwhile, Robert Allenby is in a share of 13th position on two-under with Choi while Gavin Coles (one-under), Nick O&aposHern (even) and John Senden (even) are the next best Australians. First Round Scores from the AT&T National -5: Steve Marino 65 -4: Bob Estes 66, Frank Lickliter 66, Jeff Overton 66, Rod Pampling (Australia) 66 -3: Stuart Appleby (Australia) 67, Tommy Armour III 67, Notay Begay III 67, Alex Cejka 67, Fredrik Jacobson 67, Anthony Kim 67, Billy Mayfair 67 Also: -2: Robert Allenby (Australia) 68 -1: Gavin Coles (Australia) 69 E: Nick O Hern (Australia) 70, John Senden (Australia) 70 +1: Stephen Leaney (Australia) 71, Jason Day (Australia) 71, Tim Wilkinson (New Zealand) 71 +3: Matthew Goggin (Australia) 73, Brett Rumford (Australia) 73 +4: Peter Lonard (Australia) 74, Matt Jones (Australia) 74