Date: February 21, 2008
Author: Luke Buttigieg at Moonah Links

Porter sets pace at Moonah

Young Australian Ewan Porter has soared to the top of the leaderboard late on day one of the inaugural Moonah Classic at Victoria&aposs Moonah Links. Porter became the second player to get to five under for the day after Fabian Gomez had done so earlier in the afternoon, but unlike the Argentine he managed to stay there as he finished with a five-under-par 67. That gives him a one-stroke lead from American veteran Fran Quinn, while Gomez eventually signed for a 69 and shares third place with American Chris Kirk. Australians Paul Sheehan, Paul Marantz, Rick Kulacz and Terry Price, New Zealander Mahal Pearce and American duo Tee McCabe and Matthew Every finished with 70s to be tied for fifth place at minus two. With the morning groups failing to capitalise on the calmer conditions that gave way to much stronger winds in the afternoon, Porter gave no hint of what was to come when he went out in even par thanks to a birdie and a bogey. Porter got back into red figures when he also birdied the 10th hole and remained at one under until the 13th hole when a third birdie there sparked a run of four in succession that saw him negotiate the back nine in 31 strokes and move clear. “I surprised myself, I said to my caddy Dave that I just wanted to let it happen out there,” Porter said after his round. “I said that if you go out to a bar and try to chase women, they never come.” “You go out on a golf course and try to chase birdies and they never come. I really did a good job of staying in the present today. Usually my worst habit is getting ahead of myself.” Quinn got to two-under a couple of times on the back nine after beginning his day at the 10th tee, only to hand a shot back on each occasion, but four more birdies coming home were only slightly undone by a third bogey at the fourth. “I played exceptionally well all day,” Quinn said. “Conditions were pretty difficult, the wind was blowing, it was a lot of cross winds. I drove the ball exceptionally well all day and obviously made a few putts.” “I played a couple of practice rounds and it&aposs a very difficult golf course. And if you told me when I went out that I was going to be under par I would have signed up for that and never hit the golf course. To finish at four, I&aposm very pleased.” After also starting at the 10th, four birdies in seven holes to the turn and another at the second gave Gomez a two-stroke lead, but successive bogeys derailed his momentum as Porter overtook him. Australians Jarrod Moseley and Wade Ormsby, Kiwis Michael Long and Bradley Iles and American Ricky Barnes ended the day at one-under, and last-start New Zealand PGA Championship winner Darron Stiles heads those at even par. Sheehan, Every and Stiles had all been at three-under-par at one point late in the morning before stumbling late in their rounds, Stiles falling furthest with a double bogey at the 17th and bogey at the 18th. Sheehan, the Japan Tour-based professional from New South Wales, started slowly with a bogey but a quartet of birdies took him to his share of the lead before he failed to get up and down at the 18th and made bogey. “It was sort of playing back into the wind and I pushed my tee shot a little bit and then had a pretty awkward second shot and pushed that a little bit and sort of had an awkward up and down and didn&apost quite get it up and down,” Sheehan said afterwards. “But I&aposm really happy with the round today, it was pretty tough out there today, so I&aposm pretty happy with the score,” added the 31-year-old, who tied for second when the 2005 Australian Open was played at Moonah Links. Marantz grabbed birdies at the 10th and 11th holes to start superbly but two bogeys in three holes dropped him back to even before three more birdies, as well as a bogey, gave him his share of the lead. Moseley made the early running with an amazing run of four consecutive birdies to open his round but gave back three of those shots with bogeys at the fifth, eighth and 11th holes as he settled for his 71. Won-Joon Lee and Jarrod Lyle, the latter fresh from his recent Mexico Open win, had days to forget as each shot 73, but Lyle&aposs disappointing score came about largely as a result of a triple bogey at the eighth, after he had been tied for the lead at two-under the card. Several other expected challengers also found their share of trouble, including Steven Bowditch (74), Kiwi Steve Alker (74), Peter O&aposMalley (74), Peter Senior (74), Scott Draper (78), Greg Chalmers (78) and New Zealander David Smail (78).