05 Apr 2022 | Professional golf |

American leads birdie barrage

by PGA of Australia

Derek Ackerman National image
Derek Ackerman opened with a 65 at the Gunnamatta course.

By Tony Webeck

Seven birdies in his opening 10 holes has given American Derek Ackerman a one-stroke advantage after day one of The National PGA Classic at The National Golf Club.

With the Mornington Peninsula dishing up a rare day of benign conditions players plundered birdies throughout the Tom Doak-designed Gunnamatta Course but it was Ackerman’s seven-under 65 that earned the San Francisco native sole ownership of the lead in Round 1.

Wide fairways and pure putting surfaces produced eight eagles and 484 birdies in an opening round that ended with just three shots separating the top 30 on the leaderboard.

Comparing the stunning property at The National with Bandon Dunes in Portland, Oregon – where Doak designed the Pacific Dunes course – Ackerman began his round with four straight birdies and was six-under at the turn.

He picked up another birdie at the par-4 10th and after misses from inside 10 feet at both 11 and 12 added another birdie at the 13th to get to eight-under.

It would be his last birdie of the round, however, a three-putt bogey at 14 and four closing pars keeping his lead to just a single shot heading into Wednesday’s second round.

“I feel like the second you take your foot off the gas pedal is when you start to make mistakes,” Ackerman said of his mindset after making his seventh birdie of the day at 10.

“I simply just missed a couple of eight-to-10 feet birdie looks on 11 and 12 but you can’t expect to make everything.

“The only bogey of my day came when I put myself in a bad position on the green on 14 where the best putt I could hit was to 10 or 12 feet. If I’d hit it any harder it would have gone off the front of the green.”

On a day in which birdies were bountiful no one made more than West Australian Braden Becker.

The recent winner of the 54-hole Eynesbury Masters on the adidas PGA Pro-Am Series, Becker had 10 birdies in his round of six-under 66 to earn a share of second with Blake Windred, Jed Morgan, Jason Norris, Marcus Fraser, Kyle Michel, Michael Choi and Brady Watt, Watt dropping a shot at his final hole to drop one behind Ackerman.

As part of his preparation Becker played in the members competition at The National on Saturday and knows that the strong winds predicted for the following three days will give the tournament a very different complexion.

“If the wind comes in it’s going to be an absolute nightmare,” Becker said.

“I played on Saturday in the members comp and it was blowing 45-50 kays and just trying to not three-putt was tough.

“If the wind picks up the scores could be anything but I also think it’s that type of course where if the wind is there you can still get it around if you hit it in the right spots.

“I shot 10-under at the Vic Open in the third round bogey-free so I’m always happy to make a lot of birdies.

“I generally hole a lot of putts and the few tournaments that I haven’t are the ones where I’ve struggled.”

There are ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit implications this week and two of the front-runners are well placed after day one.

Jed Morgan and Blake Windred are first and third respectively on the Order of Merit and have put themselves in position for a second win this season.

Windred’s Victorian PGA Championship victory in December was on the Mornington Peninsula at Moonah Links and the Novocastrian found The National very much to his liking.

“The greens are just perfect for holing putts,” said Windred. “As long as you give yourself a look inside 30 feet… anything with a putter in hand is makeable.

“I just love putting on these greens.

“I was four metres off the green (at No.4) but the surroundings on these greens are like carpet so you can putt it all. I would have usually chipped something like that for sure but just got it rolling and it hit the middle of the flagstick and went in.

“That’s definitely one of the tougher holes on the course but grateful for the birdie.”

New South Wales Open champion Harrison Crowe is one of eight players to shoot 67 in Round 1 to sit two shots off the lead, Zach Murray, Ben Wharton, Max McCardle, Lawrence Curtis, Corey Lamb, Jordan Mullaney and Sam Brazel also well within range.

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