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Connelly leads European Tour challenge in Fiji

Austin Connelly. © PGA of Australia
Austin Connelly. © PGA of Australia

New Zealand’s Daniel Pearce holds a one-shot lead after the first round of the Fiji International thanks to a brilliant burst of scoring around the turn, with the leading European Tour member Austin Connelly three off the lead.

Pearce began his back nine with an eagle and three straight birdies to open up a three-shot lead and, although he dropped two shots towards the end of his round, no-one could catch him as he got to six under par.

His compatriot Ben Campbell and Daniel Valente of Australia are Pearce’s nearest challengers on five under par after producing rounds of 67.

Malaysia’s Gavin Green is amongst a group of four players at six under par, while Canadian Connelly is one further back alongside a pack of five others.

The 20 year old is looking to build on a positive start to his debut European Tour season, which has included two top ten finishes and 14th place at The Open Championship.

Fijian golf legend Vijay Singh, who also designed the Championship Course at Natadola Bay, and two-time European Tour winner Scott Hend of Australia finished the round at one under par.

Player quotes

Daniel Pearce:

“I holed a really nice putt on the 1st hole for birdie which got the momentum in the right direction. I managed to birdie 11 as well and made a couple of good up and downs through the back-9 to save par. I birdied 17 and then had a bit of a run through the front-9, the first four holes. It was just a lot of good golf.

“It was quite breezy when we first started but I think the win definitely eased as the round went on. It got a little easier but he putter was pretty hot today. I rolled in a lot of putts from all over the place which was nice.”

Austin Connelly:

“I’m just trying to cement my European Tour status. It was a bit of a journey to get here, I’m playing in Denmark next week at the Made in Denmark but I want to basically play everywhere I can and just try to cement my European Tour status for next year.

“It’s been an incredible year. This will be my ninth European Tour start for the year and I’ve played reasonably well having never seen the golf courses before. I played golf courses that I didn’t really hand pick where some of them suited me, some of them didn’t. But overall it’s been a great year.”

Vijay Singh:

“I didn’t hear any negative on any holes, except for the eighth hole today with the pin placement!

“It’s almost impossible to hole that. But it’s a new green, we all expected that. I’m happy and the weather turned out too.”

Round one scores

66 D Pearce (Nzl) ,

67 D Valente (Aus) , B Campbell (Nzl) ,

68 G Green (Mas) , A Bland (Aus) , D McKenzie (Aus) , P Wilson (Aus) ,

69 A Connelly (Can) , W Ormsby (Aus) , J Norris (Aus) , D Brandt-Richards (Aus) , M Sim (Aus) , R Gangjee (Ind) ,

70 T Macdonald (Aus) , L Yan-Wei (Chn) , T Pilkadaris (Aus) , T Sinnott (Aus) , A Quayle (Aus) , J Scrivener (Aus) , C Gaunt (Aus) , D Bransdon (Aus) , R Lee (Can) , A Hall (Aus) ,

71 P Cooke (Aus) , M Stieger (Aus) , J Marchesani (Aus) , S Leaney (Aus) , A Dodt (Aus) , V Singh (Fij) , S Hend (Aus) , H Chien-Yao (Tpe) , J Felton (Aus) ,

72 J Geary (Nzl) , D Papadatos (Aus) , M Weir (Can) , P Khongwatmai (Tha) , A Cabrera (Arg) , J Nitties (Aus) , L Herbert (Aus) , B Jones (Aus) , J Kruger (RSA) , J Wang (Kor) , S Takeyasu (Jpn) , D Lawson (Aus) , D Jordan (Aus) , J McLeod (Aus) , T Chuayprakong (Tha) , K Muir (Nzl) , A Price (Aus) , M Guyatt (Aus) , N Green (Aus) ,

73 M Giles (Aus) , A Evans (Aus) , D Boonma (Tha) , B Moules (Aus) , R Fox (Nzl) , A Blyth (Aus) , M Wright (Aus) , L Wilson (Aus) , J Zunic (Aus) , L Wei-Chih (Tpe) , B Rumford (Aus) , S Vincent (Zim) , P Lonard (Aus) , D Chand (Fij) , G Paddison (Nzl) ,

74 S Dartnall (Aus) , M Millar (Aus) , M Hendry (Nzl) , B Rankin (Aus) , M McCardle (Aus) , R Bourke (Aus) , D Fox (Aus) , C S (Ind) , S Chien (USA) , C Wood (Aus) , J Janewattananond (Tha) , M Mamat (Sin) , Y Chang (Kor) , A Martin (Aus) , T Tuivuna (Fij) , H Bateman (Nzl) , D Nisbet (Aus) ,

75 J Wilson (Aus) , A Da Silva (Bra) , J Cabban (Aus) , A Townsend (Aus) , N Srithong (Tha) , T Hart (Aus) , P Saksansin (Tha) , L Weber (Fra) , R Wannasrichan (Tha) , S Sharma (Ind) , S Jeffress (Aus) , M Brown (Nzl) , P Swangarunporn (Tha) ,

76 R Kulacz (Aus) , J Munro (Aus) , T Moses (Aus) , J Higginbottom (Aus) , G Drakeford (Aus) , S Kooratanapisan (Tha) , C O’Toole (USA) , C O’Reilly (Aus) , M Brown (Aus) , M Choi (Aus) , D Beck (Aus) ,

77 D Smail (Nzl) , B Shilton (Nzl) , D Klein (Ger) , P Pittayarat (Tha) , L Tighe (Aus) , A Murdaca (Aus) , S Rahman (Ban) , D Sahl (Can) , B Proverbs (Aus) , M Long (Nzl) ,

78 C Crawford (Aus) , J Veerman (USA) , N Basic (Aus) , K Mueck (Aus) , J Younger (Aus) , A Wilkin (Aus) , A Burdett (Aus) , S Lee (Fij) , R Haller (Aus) ,

79 T Power Horan (Aus) ,

80 S Lee (Kor) , Z Ahmad (Fij) ,

82 R McCarthy (Aus) , A Hussain (am) (Fij) ,

92 A Koroicure (Fij)