Date: December 13, 2012
Author: Steve Orme at Coolum, Omnisport

Popovic takes lead as Norman withdraws

Daniel Popovic has posted a superb eight-under 64 to lead the Australian PGA Championship by two shots after a dramatic opening day that saw Greg Norman withdraw due to food poisoning. Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school, scorched around the Palmer Coolum Resort layout in sunny but windy afternoon conditions. The 26-year-old birdied his first four holes and bounced back from his only bogey of the day at the par-five 15th with five straight birdies from the 17th hole. Korean Min-Kyu Han&aposs course record of 62 looked under real threat but Victorian Popovic parred his remaining six holes to finish at minus eight. “That was some of the best golf that I&aposve played in my life,” Popovic said immediately after his round. “There were times there where I even surprised myself of how confident I was with the way that I was hitting it.” Scott Strange leads the chasing pack after shooting a six-under 66 in the morning, one clear of Geoff Ogilvy, who was the next best of the afternoon players. The 2006 US Open champion&aposs opening round featured two eagles – at the par-five 5th and par-five 12th – to share third spot with China&aposs Xin Jun Zhang and Singapore&aposs Tze-huang Choo. “I felt like I got away with it a bit, I mean the two eagles I had were a really long putt from off the green and a chip in”, Ogilvy, who cannot remember the last time he had two eagles in a round, said. “I kind of snuck away with a couple today … I felt I was doing the best I could having five-under today.” Australian Open winner Peter Senior also made a bright start, carding a four-under 68 to sit in a four-way share of sixth. Popular Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, playing alongside Ogilvy, signed for an opening-round 70. The third member of the group, Robert Allenby, made a double bogey at the par-five 12th and bogey at the last to card a one-over 73. Defending champion Greg Chalmers began his defence with an even-par 72 while South African Rory Sabbatini struggled to a four-over 76 on day one. It was a dramatic start to the tournament on Thursday morning, with Norman forced to withdraw after just two holes due to illness. After starting his round at the 10th hole at 7.00am local time, Norman battled to consecutive bogeys before shaking hands with playing partners Stuart Appleby and Jake Higginbottom on the 11th green. “Greg Norman has been diagnosed with food poisoning and has been attended to by Dr. Barry Whelan at Mt. Coolum Medical Centre, who spent the morning with him and treated Greg&aposs symptoms with appropriate medication,” PGA of Australia CEO Brian Thorburn said. “Dr. Whelan expects Greg to make a full recovery and has advised Greg to rest in his room in the meantime.” “While we&aposre obviously disappointed for the fans who love to see Greg play in Australia, we wish Greg a speedy recovery.” Meanwhile, Queenslander Marcus Cain produced the shot of the day after a spectacular hole-in-one at the par-three 2nd, on the way to an opening 72.