Bowditch, Choi share early PGA lead

Local Steven Bowditch has matched Joon-Woo Choi’s morning six-under 66 to share top billing with the South Korean after the opening round of the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum.

On a day when a host of players including Jason Day threatened to shoot the lights out, and his fellow Queenslander Adam Scott staged a remarkable recovery to stay in the hunt, it was firstly Choi and then Bowditch who capitalised most on the favourable conditions.

Steve Bowditch Steve Bowditch

With the temperature peaking at 27 degrees and winds gusting at about 30km/h, rain also fell in the afternoon but the forecast thunderstorm never eventuated even if some thunder did rumble through early in the afternoon.

One shot adrift of Bowditch and Choi are Australians Aaron Baddeley, Andre Stolz and Aaron Townsend, as well as American Bubba Watson, while Steve Conran and Marcus Fraser are among those tied for seventh just two shots back.

Lurking within three strokes are British Open champion Darren Clarke, Day, triple winner Robert Allenby, American Rickie Fowler and South Korean YE Yang, while Scott, Stuart Appleby and defending champion Peter Senior all finished with 70s.

Mathew Goggin, veterans Peter Fowler and Rodger Davis and last-start Australian Open winner Greg Chalmers headline those at one under, Chalmers after an up and down day that included an ace at the par-three 2nd.

Having led early in the day at four under, Tristan Lambert had to be content with a 72 after a disappointing back nine, and those also at that score include Geoff Ogilvy, Nick O’Hern, Rod Pampling and Greg Norman.

Having seen the likes of Lambert, Rohan Blizard, Clarke and Marcus Fraser spend time at the top during the morning and then Watson and Townsend post his 67, Choi overtook them all as he went to the turn two under and picked up an eagle and three birdies coming home.

“I have played this course last year for four rounds so I know the course well (and) I’m really enjoying being able to play here again,” Choi said.

“This is a very big tournament, there are many good players in the field so it is very competitive out there (and) I have to make sure I don’t get too excited in the coming days if I want to keep playing well.”

Bowditch made a mixed start with a birdie at the 1st followed quickly by bogey at the 2nd but he turned at minus two and got to five under with three further birdies before responding to another dropped shot at 16 with successive birdies to finish.

“My putting (and) my short game was pretty scrappy around the greens (but) I hit the ball probably as good as I have hit it for a good six or seven months today, so it could have been better or it could have been worse,” Bowditch said.

Day made an amazing start with birdies at five of his first seven holes and after grabbing a sixth at the 9th he was still at minus five at the turn having also bogeyed the 8th but on the back nine he dropped two shots overall as he completely lost momentum.

After a horror back nine that included a triple bogey, a double bogey and a pair of bogeys that left him at plus five, Scott burned up the front nine with six birdies – making it six in seven holes to the 7th – as he followed his back-nine 40 with just 30 coming home to finish with a 70.

Scott’s woes stemmed largely from three visits to the water in four holes from the 11th while Clarke got to four under at one point only to make back-to-back bogeys at the 4th and 5th but a birdie at the 6th left him within touch of the leaders.

Source – PGA Australia