Sergio Garcia fired a bogey-free 67 on day one of the Australian PGA Championship to sit one shot off the lead on the Gold Coast.
The Spaniard has enjoyed a stellar 2017 with wins at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation to go with his maiden Major Championship victory at the Masters Tournament, and is looking to end the calendar year in style with victory Down Under.
RACV Royal Pines Resort was softened by rain – with two short delays in the morning – and even with the earliest tee time in his professional career at 6:10am, the Spaniard’s five under par opening round gave him the early clubhouse lead before Australians Jordan Zunic and Adam Bland signed for rounds of 66 towards the end of play.
World Number 13 Marc Leishman matched Garcia’s round of 67 with a mixed bag that included an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys, as did Australian great Peter Senior, Daniel Nisbet and Michael Wright, to sit tied third at five under par.
Senior retired from golf during the 2016 Australian Open due to injury and was a last minute inclusion in the Australian PGA Championship field, deciding to play just 15 minutes before entries closed for the tournament.
The four-time European Tour winner turned back the clock, as the 58 year old went bogey-free on his way to carding five birdies on a course that is just 15 minutes down the road from his home.
Two-time champion Greg Chalmers turned in level par 36 from the tenth but produced a big finish with birdies on the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth to sit at four under for the day in a large chasing group of nine Australians, with 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott one under for the tournament.
Sergio Garcia: “It was a long round. Obviously a couple rain delays on the course and not what you hope for, but other than that I felt like I played pretty solid. I wouldn’t say that it was amazing but it was good. The most positive thing for me would be to go a bogey free round, which I didn’t realise until we got done.
“I feel like mentally I’m not quite as sharp as I was probably a month ago or so. I guess the year is kind of draining a little bit, but it was nice to play with Scotty (Adam Scott) and with Wade (Ormsby), we had a great time.
“I think the best thing about it was how what I’ve been working on, really been very patient even in the tough moments I stepped in there and realising that some of those moments are going to happen and you’ve just got to deal with that the best way possible. So because of that I was able to scramble around nicely and solid scramble nice pars here and there, and because of that I shot a really nice round.
“I’ve never teed off at 6:10am in a tournament. Obviously in practice rounds I’ve done it before, but in a tournament I think probably the earliest I’ve teed off I want to say it’s 6:50am, maybe 7:00am. So that was interesting. I want to say it was the closest I’ve had a dinner and a breakfast ever.”
Jordan Zunic: “I didn’t realise obviously until I got in that I was tied for the lead. It’s exactly how you want to start a golf tournament so I’m absolutely over the moon. I feel like this was coming. I didn’t know how soon it was going to come, but I’m glad. It’s nice, it’s good for the confidence, which has been a bit low lately, that’s for sure.
“I think I’ve got slightly better. There’s been glimpses during parts of my round over the last two weeks where I’ve done some really good things and stretched together some really good holes, and then I just slip into a bit of a bad mindset, which is what I’ve been working on.”
Adam Bland: “It was a good day obviously but got off to a bit of a slow start early on just making a few pars. Then hit a couple nice shots and converted them, which was nice to hit them in. Probably three or four for the day that were inside that three or four foot range, so it was great to make those.
“I saw a couple leaderboards and I saw I think Garcia was the best in the morning at five under. So once I got to six under, then I knew it. I was just trying to make a few more birdies coming in, especially on the par fives there I was going for it in two but didn’t pan out. Obviously it would have been nice to not make a bogey on the last, but six under is still six under.”
Marc Leishman: “It was a really nice way to finish. The back nine I played a lot better, a couple birdies. That eagle was really nice and then to follow it up with a birdie and birdie the last was really good. I’m feeling good. Game’s in a good spot, putter feels good, so hopefully can get out early with no wind and have a low one.”
Adam Scott: “A good start and a good finish, mixed bag in the middle. Some positive signs towards the end, which is good, so I can take that into tomorrow. I hit two shots that were really ordinary and they cost me three out there. So, it’s easy to just talk about a shot here and three there, but that’s what it felt like today. The rest was pretty solid.
“The greens slowed down obviously as we had some rain and a couple delays. A couple putts that you’re hoping from 15 or 20 feet to drop in just dived across the front. So all in all not too bad. Didn’t let Sergio get too far ahead. Try and make up a few on the lead tomorrow and be in position for the weekend to be good.”
First round scores
66 J Zunic (Aus) , A Bland (Aus) ,
67 M Leishman (Aus) , D Nisbet (Aus) , P Senior (Aus) , M Wright (Aus) , S Garcia (Esp) ,
68 J Nitties (Aus) , G Chalmers (Aus) , R Gibson (Aus) , S Dartnall (Aus) , L Herbert (Aus) , B Rankin (Aus) , C Smith (Aus) ,
69 J Hansen (Den) , J Younger (Aus) , D Brandt-Richards (Aus) , A Schonewillie (Aus) , S Crocker (USA) , R Bourke (Aus) , A Martin (Aus) , T Smyth (Aus) , C Parry (Aus) , D Bransdon (Aus) , M Brown (Nzl) , J Geary (Nzl) ,
70 K Koivu (Fin) , P Maddy (Eng) , J Norris (Aus) , M Hendry (Nzl) , R Haller (Aus) , B Shilton (Nzl) , K Hickok (USA) , R Evans (Eng) , C Wood (Aus) , R Pampling (Aus) , M Long (Nzl) , A Meronk (Pol) , M Sim (Aus) , M Brown (Aus) ,
71 T Macdonald (Aus) , H Varner Iii (USA) , J Lagergren (Swe) , T Detry (Bel) , C Hanson (Eng) , O Farr (Wal) , M Jones (Aus) , A Arnaus (Esp) , J Wilson (Aus) , D Im (USA) , W Ormsby (Aus) , A Scott (Aus) , B Coletta (Aus) , S Manley (Wal) , S Webster (Eng) , M Ilonen (Fin) , X Luo (Chn) , A Blyth (Aus) , T Hart (Aus) , T Power Horan (Aus) , B Eccles (Aus) , A Dodt (Aus) ,
72 B Moules (Aus) , D Papadatos (Aus) , R Woodward (Aus) , J Marchesani (Aus) , M McCardle (Aus) , S Brazel (Aus) , M Zirov (Aus) , C Crawford (Aus) , N Holman (Aus) , V Perez (Fra) , L Tighe (Aus) , J Lee (Aus) , C Mivis (Bel) , J McLeod (Aus) , D Pearce (Nzl) , M Choi (Kor) , M Giles (Aus) , T Moses (Aus) , A Knappe (Ger) , J Arnold (Aus) , R Green (Aus) , R Karlsson (Swe) , H Leon (Chi) , S Eaves (Aus) , J Scrivener (Aus) ,
73 M Fraser (Aus) , E Cuartero Blanco (Esp) , G Drakeford (Aus) , M Choi (Aus) , D Lawson (Aus) , C Luck (Aus) , P Cooke (Aus) , M Griffin (Aus) , D Jordan (Aus) , C Koepka (USA) , M Weir (Can) , D Smail (Nzl) , N Kimsey (Eng) , M Goggin (Aus) , R Kulacz (Aus) , J Blixt (Swe) , M Millar (Aus) , M Nixon (Eng) , P Spargo (Aus) ,
74 B Hafthorsson (Isl) , M Iten (Sui) , K Mueck (Aus) , N O’Hern (Aus) , D Beck (Aus) , C O’Reilly (Aus) , J Singh Brar (Eng) , O Goss (Aus) , N Green (Aus) , B Campbell (Nzl) , M Docking (Aus) , J Felton (Aus) , A Price (Aus) , K Johannessen (Nor) , S Khan (Eng) , M Armitage (Eng) , J Edfors (Swe) ,
75 J Munro (Aus) , C Paisley (Eng) , L Wilson (Aus) , D Valente (Aus) , G Forrest (Sco) , R Fox (Nzl) , M Hoey (Nir) , A Edge (Aus) , S Henry (Sco) , J Cabban (Aus) , D Popovic (Aus) , H Endycott (Aus) , P Wilson (Aus) ,
76 G Choi (Kor) , D Fox (Aus) , T Gooch (USA) , G Porteous (Eng) , B Rumford (Aus) ,
77 F Droop (Aus) , H Zhang (Chn) , K Muir (Nzl) , B Proverbs (Aus) , L Jensen (Den) , R Tang (Chn) ,
78 T Lewis (Eng) , P O’Malley (Aus) , C Gaunt (Aus) , R Allenby (Aus) ,
79 M Guyatt (Aus) ,
80 C McCourt (Aus) , D Stewart (Sco) ,
81 A Hall (Aus) , P Mejow (Ger) ,