Date: November 23, 2006
Author: Ben Wise and Angus Morgan

Pike enters the spotlight

By Ben Wise and Angus Morgan, Sportal Golf Australia national squad member Aaron Pike has fired a course record-equalling 64 to claim the lead after day one of the co-sanctioned Mastercard Australian Masters at Huntingdale on Thursday. The 21-year-old, who grew up in Darwin but who is now based in Brisbane, sunk a slick, downhill 20-footer for birdie on his final hole (the ninth) to jump ahead of Englishmen Nick Dougherty and Peter Wilson, the latter pair earlier completing stunning 65s. A shot further back lies world No.109 Raphael Jacquelin, who bogeyed his final hole (the ninth), the Frenchman, like the leading trio, taking advantage of cool, overcast conditions in the morning. Spaniard Carl Suneson birdied the 18th to shoot an afternoon-best 68 and join former champions Craig Parry and Peter Lonard, two-time Australian Open winner Aaron Baddeley, Steven Bowditch and Tony Carolan on four-under. Englishman Justin Rose carded a three-under 69 in the warm, sunny conditions. However, he will rue finishing his day with three straight bogeys having climbed to six-under after 15. Defending champion Robert Allenby, Australian Open winner John Senden, Gavin Flint and Chris Gray also fired 69s. The solidly-built Pike got his MasterCard Australian Masters off to a flyer with an eagle on the par-five 10th before adding a birdie at the 14th en route to an outward 33. He then picked up a shot at the short par-four second and consolidated with pars at the next three holes before unleashing a withering run of four birdies to come home in 31 and equal Nick O&aposHern&aposs record score from last year&aposs MasterCard Masters. “My goal coming into this was that I wanted to shoot double figures under par, get into 10, 11, 12 (under). They&aposre not going to change,” Pike said. “I&aposm going to keep doing what I did today and if it happens, it happens, but I&aposm not going change anything or expect myself to win because I shot a 64.” “Talking to my caddie, we were very confident I could putt well on these greens and if I kept hitting it the way I was and take my opportunities I was going to play well around here – obviously not 64, you&aposve got to have a lot of things go your way – but I was confident I could shoot sub-par, in the 60s.” Dougherty&aposs round could have been even better, with the Englishman failing to pick up a stroke on the short par-five 10th and he also made bogeys on a pair of par-threes – the 15th and third holes. But he led all players to have completed their first rounds by compiling nine birdies, with Jacquelin registering eight birdies. The Frenchman picked up shots on four of his first five holes – he bogeyed the 11th – before turning in 33 and making birdies on the first, third and sixth holes before his late blemish. Baddeley also started on the 10th where he failed to pick up a stroke on the short par-five but birdies at 11, 13, 14 and the fourth jumped the Victorian to minus five before a disappointing bogey at the reachable par-five seventh – when he three-putted from 12 feet. “I&aposd say four-under is a good start, but I definitely left some shots out there. Four-under was like the worst score I was going to shoot today,” he said after his round. “I feel very comfortable with my game, played some good shots, I feel link I&aposm putting well – I can&apost wait for tomorrow.” “The greens are a comfortable speed where you can go ahead and give it a hit and not worry about the next one.” Allenby had an erratic scorecard to say the least as he began his title defence. After opening with pars on 10 and 11, he dropped a stroke at the par-three 12th before consecutive birdies. But he then made a disastrous triple-bogey six on 15 before a birdie-par-bogey finish to his opening nine. However, the Victorian regrouped to pick up shots on the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth holes to be right in contention heading into the second day. Denny Lucas, who was at one point in a share of the lead when he holed his second shot at the par-four 13th (he had earlier eagled the 10th) to go four-under, dropped back to one-under by round&aposs end. Fellow Englishman and world No.15 Paul Casey had an indifferent day. Playing with Senden and Allenby, Casey signed-off for a one-under 71 comprising 15 pars, two birdies at six and 14 and an untimely bogey at his last hole, the par-four ninth. Kiwi Michael Campbell, playing with Rose, will need to shoot the lights out on Friday to play himself back into contention. The 2005 US Open champion&aposs two-over-par round was summed up when he hit a brilliant approach into the 16th only to lip out the six-footer for birdie. Pre-tournament favourite Stuart Appleby has made an ordinary start as he seeks his first MasterCard Masters title, the double-winner on the US tour this year shooting 75 despite a birdie on his last hole (the ninth).