Date: August 01, 2008

Strange impressive in Akron

Scott Strange continued his impressive form this year after posting a two-under 68 in the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The 31-year-old from Perth, who plied his trade on the Asian Tour before winning the European Tour&aposs Wales Open in June, is the leading Australian in the field, just two strokes behind double major champion Retief Goosen, who took early control with a four-under 66. After a bogey on the first hole, Strange responded with three birdies on the third, sixth and 15th holes for a solid first round. Adam Scott, Brendan Jones, Rod Pampling and Peter Lonard sit one stroke further back in a large group at one-under. Goosen, the 2001 and 2004 US Open champion from South Africa, is winless in America since 2005 and has yet to win anywhere in the world in 2008 but bounced back into form on Thursday. That was good enough for the clubhouse leader at Firestone Country Club as the $US8million tournament got under way in Akron, Ohio. The South African, in the second group of the day to begin at the first tee of the 7,400-yard, par-70 South Course, posted a five-birdie, one bogey round. Vijay Singh had a chance to take Goosen&aposs lead only to undo a bogey-free round that had left him five-under after 17 holes. The Fijian double bogeyed the 18th to finish at three-under with an opening 67. Also in the clubhouse on three-under were Goosen&aposs compatriot Tim Clark and Sweden&aposs Daniel Chopra. Open champion Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, recovered from a shaky start to stay in the hunt on his return to action following his Royal Birkdale triumph. The Irishman, who successfully defended his Open title with a four-shot victory over Ian Poulter 11 days ago, had been hoping to shake off a little staleness after a week of celebrations at home in Ireland. Instead, he was two-over-par after 13 holes and seemingly out of touch with the leaders before three birdies on the final five holes delivered a one-under-par round of 69. “I just struggled,” Harrington admitted. “You know, I wasn&apost with it at times.” Harrington was delighted that despite his lack of focus he was still in touch with the lead. “I didn&apost do any harm today, which is great for me, and if I can get better each day, that would be great,” he said. “And hopefully Sunday I&aposll be good and sharp; and if not, I&aposll be ready for next week.” Stewart Cink, one of the pre-tournament favourites and one of only four golfers to have broken Tiger Woods&apos stranglehold on this event in its 10-year history, finished on two-under. Colin Montgomerie was among those struggling to find form, finishing the day at two-over. World Gold Championships Bridgestone International Scores from Round 1 -4: Retief Goosen 66 -3: Vijay Singh 67, Tim Clark 67, Daniel Chopra 67, Zach Johnson 67 -2: Scott Strange (Australia) 68, Steve Webster 68, Chez Reavie 68, Chad Campbell 68, Rocco Mediate 68, Stewart Cink 68, Justin Leonard 68, Phil Mickelson 68, Sean O&aposHair 68, Brandt Snedeker 68, Chris DiMarco 68, Steve Stricker 68, Jim Furyk 68, Charles Howell III 68 Also: -1: Brendan Jones (Australia) 69, Rod Pampling (Australia) 69, Peter Lonard (Australia) 69 E: Nick O Hern (Australia) 70, Craig Parry (Australia) 70, Stuart Appleby (Australia) 70 +1: Robert Allenby (Australia) 71, Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 71 +2: Richard Green (Australia) 72 +5: Brett Rumford (Australia) 75 +9: Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 79 +10: Mark Brown (New Zealand) 780