16 Feb 2023 | Professional golf |

Hot streak hands Marchesani TPS Sydney lead

by Australian Golf Media

James Marchesani.

By Tony Webeck

A six-hole back-nine birdie blitz has handed Victorian James Marchesani a one-stroke lead at TPS Sydney at Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

Four-under through 10 holes, Marchesani put the foot to the floor in perfect scoring conditions to get to 10-under with two holes left to play in his round.

A lost ball left of the green at the par-4 17th led to an untimely double-bogey but he made a great save for par from right of the 18th to post eight-under and assume the clubhouse lead.

Last year’s runner-up Brendan Jones, Queenslander Charlie Dann and Sydneysiders Daniel Gale and Anthony Choat all finished one shot back of Marchesani at seven-under as Grace Kim and Andrew Martin produced the rounds of the afternoon to join the logjam just one back.

LPGA Tour star Sarah Kemp and Mollymook’s Kelsey Bennett are part of a five-way tie for eighth as 21 players finished day one within three of the lead.

Although well short of the world record nine straight birdies James Nitties equalled at the 2019 Vic Open, Marchesani’s career-best run of birdies provided the cornerstone to yet another compelling start to a tournament.

“Not sure if I’ve done it in a tournament – maybe five – so six is a nice one-up on that,” Marchesani said.

“Probably by the sixth you start to look at the scorecard and you think, There’s a lot of circles there. I tried to keep pressing on that but didn’t finish amazing but happy with the start.”

Tied for 21st a week ago at the Vic Open, Marchesani is still smarting from his runner-up finish at TPS Victoria three weeks ago.

The 18, 36 and 54-hole leader at his home club, Rosebud Country Club, Marchesani was run down by Korean Min A Yoon but has tried to shed that disappointment and instead harness the good form he has shown since the first tournament of the season.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting,” added Marchesani, who was tied ninth at the WA PGA Championship at Kalgoorlie.

“To win at home is something that probably everyone wants to do and not everyone can. I’m just fortunate that I’ve got a tournament at my home club.

“I probably wouldn’t have changed any shot that I hit but to come up one short was a bit frustrating but it was a good week.

“It’s more taking that form and knowing that you’re playing well and you’re going to put yourself back into positions to win.

“We’re off to a good start here this week and if I can keep playing well, who knows.”

One of Marchesani’s nearest challengers also carries the heartbreak of a near miss in a Webex Players Series event.

Dann had a share of the lead each day for the first three rounds of the inaugural TPS Sydney in 2021 but was run down on Sunday by a world-record round by Andrew Martin.

Despite an admittedly difficult season to date, Dann drew on those memories to put himself in contention once again at Bonnie Doon.

“I’ve been really quite off the whole season,” Dann offered after his round of 64.

“The two cuts I made were the Australian Open and the Australian PGA and they weren’t good finishes on the weekend.

“I’ve been really struggling with my own game but it’s nice to come back to a course where I have some good vibes.

“Deep down I think it helps. There is a little bit of comfort around here and still hitting the shots and trusting myself a little bit more out there.

“It’s just a good start for me to build a little confidence off.”

One player not short on confidence and revelling in the comfort of home this week is Grace Kim.

Staying in her childhood bedroom and playing her final event before embarking on her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, Kim birdied four of her final seven holes in a northerly wind that strengthened throughout the afternoon.

After hitting pitching wedge into the final hole in the pro-am, Kim hit 4-hybrid to the back edge of the 18th green on Thursday, leaving her birdie putt an inch short of joining Marchesani at eight-under.

“It was predicted to get to this strength of wind but you just have to work with it because you’re not the only one out there struggling against the wind,” said Kim, who made three birdies on the trot from the 12th hole.

“Towards the back nine you had 14 that’s reachable because it was howling downwind, 13 was a good birdie and then 12 was always going to be a good birdie chance as well.

“Being aggressive at the appropriate time was probably key during the back nine.”

Edged out by Jarryd Felton in a rain-affected playoff 12 months ago, Jones picked up four shots in the space of three holes on his back nine, highlighted by a 7-iron to five feet to set up eagle at the par-5 fifth.

Gale also left his run late, making birdie at the par-4 eighth and then hitting 6-iron to four feet for a walk-off eagle at nine to complete his round of 64.

Although he finished the day well down the leaderboard, Elvis Smylie turned heads with a remarkable reversal of fortune.

Eight-over through six holes, Smylie went out in seven-over 44 but came home in five-under 29 to give himself some hope of playing his way into the weekend.

Round 2 commences at 7.30am on Friday.

Round 2 draw

Round 1 scores

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