Date: January 15, 2010

Porter leads British Open Final Qualifying

After a first-round, four-under-par 68, Australia s Ewan Porter holds the lead at the half-way stage of International Final Qualifying Australasia. He lies one stroke clear of Peter Senior and Aaron Townsend, who both posted 69s around Kingston Heath Golf Club on Melbourne s sandbelt. Teeing-off in the fifth group of the morning, Porter capitalised on calm early conditions, posting six birdies and two bogeys five birdies coming on the front nine en route to his 68. It is a promising start to the year for Porter, who has just returned to competition after a three-month break. It was a little surprising today because usually it takes me a tournament or two to get rid of the rust and be feeling fresh. The last few years I have struggled in January and played better in February so this is a nice way to start, said Porter. I played really well: every part of my game was pretty solid out there. I putted really, really well which is the key to shooting a low one. A two-time qualifier through IFQ Australasia, the 27-year-old is keen to show that he can perform at Kingston Heath, having qualified for The Open at his home club of The Lakes in both 2007 and 2008. It would be nice to qualify here to prove it s not just The Lakes I can do it at but it s still early in the year. I ve been playing a lot of golf, albeit socially, over the last few weeks and I m feeling pretty good about my game. Porter holds a one-shot lead over playing partner Aaron Townsend, winner of the 2008 New South Wales Open, and 50-year-old veteran Peter Senior. Senior is attempting to secure an 18th appearance at The Open Championship, 10 years after he last competed in 2000 at St Andrews. He comes to IFQ in good form, having recently finished first at US Champions Tour Qualifying School. The last six months of last year I played really well and then I took a couple of weeks off so I am just trying to regain that feeling for playing, said Senior, whose round included an eagle at the par-5 seventh. It’s nearly there I am hitting some decent shots but I m hitting a lot of roughies as well but I m not too far off the mark. Senior is hoping to make the trip to Scotland to compete in the 2010 Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie, and he would relish the chance to take his place on the Old Course the week before. It would be great to be able to go over, obviously: to go back to St Andrews and then to compete in my first Senior Open a week later, said Senior, who begins his Champions Tour career next month. With the wind gradually picking up throughout the day, only six players managed to record scores under par. Of last year s qualifiers, Michael Wright was one of the few late starters to break par, shooting a 71, while Josh Geary and Tim Wood both finished at two over par, six strokes off the lead. A field of 44 players is contesting 36 holes of International Final Qualifying at Kingston Heath with the top three earning a place at the 150th Anniversary Open Championship at St Andrews in July.