Seven o’clock is an awfully early tee time but aside from the shock of the alarm clock it’s the best time to play. The wind usually isn’t up and if it is, it’s most likely to get worse. The greens are better too, free of trampling feet and the drying of the sun.
So it was when John Senden, Mathew Goggin and Geoff Ogilvy went off the 10th tee at The Lakes to begin their Open campaigns. Here were three of our finest ball-strikers and a course for the taking. Goggin started perfectly driving precisely to the ideal left edge of the fairway and pitching to a foot. What he wouldn’t have done for an extra birdie last week at the American tour school where he was 26th, one shot and one man out of a place on the main tour.
Senden pitched well enough to eight feet but he didn’t show much intent with the putt, wafting it down short and right of the hole. Ogilvy from inside Senden missed as well and set the tone for his day.
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From there Senden put on a clinic. He pitched close to the par five, 11th then did the same at the short par four 13th after playing safely off the tee with an iron. Goggin in contrast had blasted a beautiful driver at the green but it kicked long into the back bunker and from there four was all he could do. Senden then two-putted the par five, 14th for another birdie, hit a perfect iron into the 15th for another birdie and made the expected four at the par five, 17th.
Ogilvy in stark contrast frustrated himself to the point of distraction by making a ridiculous double bogey at the 12th where, after a long drive, he came out of a short iron and pushed it off into a plugged lie in the bunker. At the 17th he made another double thanks to a pulled iron, one he had aimed sensibly shot of the water lined green. It avoided the lake but off the steep bank he pitched long and took two more to get back and two putts. Goggin’s brilliant three after a long four wood approach showed what is possible on a hole that has decided so many tournaments here.
Senden made another birdie at his tenth hole but only after a blasting short iron approach out of the sand dune to the right of the fairway.
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The front nine at The Lakes is short by the standards of today and there are chances to pick up shots but only with precise irons. Senden hit two of them to at the 7th and 8th to retrieve the shots he’d lost at the 2nd and 3rd. His 66 was a elegantly played round full of quality shots and even though he is past his 40th birthday there should be more good years to come. He has played in America for a decade now and statistically no player has hit the greens with more regularity. Like Goggin the putter is always the aiming point for those looking for a reason he doesn’t win more because he certainly should.
Goggin, jet-lagged from the long flight back from America bladed a fairway bunker shot over the green at the short par four 6th. An air-shot from under a bush and four more hits later he put a seven on his card. 71 was decent enough but annoying.
Ogilvy continued to hit fine shots on the front nine but he cancelled three birdies with a three-putt bogey at the 3rd and a missed green bogey at the short 7th. 74 was better than 75 but that all. ‘I’ve just turned into that player – turning 68s and 69s into 73s and 74s - it’s ridiculous.’
It was that but as Lee Trevino once said ‘the cake is barely in the oven’.
Senden though was terrific in the early morning and his 66 is the best of foundations. He will take some beating this week and the interest will be in how he goes about it.