21 Apr 2023 | Professional golf |
Aussies rally at The Grange
by Tony Webeck
Captain Cameron Smith rallied to maintain touch with the leaders but the all-Aussie Ripper GC team struggled on day one of LIV Golf Adelaide.
Ideal weather and a superbly presented Grange Golf Club gave players every opportunity to go low, American Talor Gooch cashing in best with a round of 10-under 62 to lead by four from Dean Burmester (66) and Richard Bland (66).
Bland’s Cleeks GC team of Graeme McDowell (67), Bernd Wiesberger (67) and Martin Kaymer (75) lead the teams event at 16-under by two strokes from Burmester’s Stinger GC, Ripper GC in a tie for last place at four-under despite being on home soil and having a raucous crowd at their backs.
At one point early in Round 1 the Ripper GC team of Smith, Matt Jones, Jed Morgan and Marc Leishman were dead last among the 12 teams before making a mid-round move up the leaderboard.
With the Open champion leading the charge, the all-Aussie team gave the local fans plenty to cheer about but lost momentum late in the day.
Smith’s three-under 69 was the best of the Aussies, Marc Leishman birdied three of Grange’s four par 5s in a round of one-under 70 while Matt Jones dropped four shots in his final six holes to post even-par 71.
A triple bogey at the par 5 eighth brought Jed Morgan’s round undone, the 2021 Australian PGA champion signing for a four-over 75 to sit in 47th position heading into Saturday’s second round.
Admitting that the large Adelaide crowd added pressure to perform, Smith believes he still got enough out of his round to challenge over the final two days.
The fans roared to life when he stiffed a wedge at the par-5 eighth and then he conjured further short-game wizardry on 18 when his pitch shot nestled to just a couple of feet for a closing birdie.
“From a playing standpoint, I think had two or three lip-outs there on the back nine, so it could have easily been another two or three shots,” Smith lamented.
“I still feel like I'm really in the tournament, although I think ‘Goochy’ went out there and shot 10-under.
“It's just a couple of nice days. I feel like I got a lot of momentum off the back of today; just need those putts to roll in.”
Chasing a maiden big win on home soil, Leishman also felt the intensity of a crowd largely decked out in Ripper GC merchandise.
If it was taxing on day one, he hopes similar energy levels across the weekend will elevate the team towards the top of the leaderboard.
“To have that many people that have got your back, that are really going for you, it's pretty cool,” said Leishman.
“Not that you don't try other weeks – of course you try – but it makes you want it that little bit more.
“I don't know if that was a good or a bad thing. Hopefully it'll be a good thing the next couple of days.”
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