West Australian Jarryd Felton [pictured] and Victorian Cameron John have set the early pace at the AVJennings NSW Open but hold just a one-shot lead over nine players.
Playing in the morning field, Felton fired a six-under 66 to continue a strong showing at Twins Creek Golf & Country Club after he finished tied for sixth at the same venue last year.
“I don’t normally make that many birdies, but I made them today so hopefully I can keep it going over the next three days,” Felton said. “I had four birdies in a row. I birdied probably one of the hardest holes today, the par-3 14th and then got on a bit of a run.
“I was feeling really confident through that stretch and then lipped out on the last so it could have been even better, but I am very happy with six-under.”
Today’s performance also signals a turnaround in form with the flatstick for Felton, just in time for the last three events of the year on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.
“I only missed one green today so I gave myself a lot of chances. They paid off at the end of the day, I made some nice putts. My putting has been horrific lately so it’s nice to see it turn around,” added Felton, who rolled in a 40 foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th.
“The greens are rolling so good that you feel like you should be holing 30-footers but they are soft as well so you can go at the flags. The course is softer this year so you’re having a lot longer shots in, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference. I like this layout, its open off the tee but you still need to take the right lines.”
Playing in the afternoon field, rookie pro John rolled in a birdie putt on the 18th to tie Felton at the top of the leaderboard. It’s a solid feat for the 19-year-old who is currently playing injured while trying to shore up his place inside the top-50 on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
“The putter was pretty much on fire today. I have been feeling good about my game but I was struggling on Monday, I wasn’t sure if I was going to play,” John said. “I have a bulging disc in my back, so I have been struggling with that. I wouldn’t have been able to play without the help of Matt Green, the tour physio.
“Given my spot on the Order of Merit, I need to play everything, so I have played my fifth week in a row while injured.
“I want to go to Asian tour school at the end of the year so it is a big advantage to be top-50. I am currently 42nd, so it’s important to play well. The higher I finish on the Order of Merit, the more opportunities I get – the Aussie Tour is great for that.”
Victorian PGA champion Aaron Pike, who arrived at the course just 10 minutes before his 7.15am tee-time due to a mix-up with his alarm, fired five-under the card to be one of nine players tied for second.
“I had a bit of a rough start today. Jack Munro, who I am staying with, slept through his alarm and my phone software updated overnight and my alarm turned itself off. So I only got here with 10 minutes to spare. It wasn’t the greatest preparation, it wasn’t a good look,” Pike said.
“But we got here in time. I am not sure how Jack went [he carded a two-under 70], but I was feeling good and playing nice. I got to hit a few balls to warm up. I am going to buy an alarm tonight!”
Joining the logjam at five-under was Matthew Millar who has earned the nickname of Mr Consistent on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
“I have a good understanding of my game and I don’t try to play outside it. There are holes where it is tempting, and maybe a few years back, I would have tried to have a crack, but now I take the safer option and make a birdie with less risk,” said Millar, who has recorded seven top-10 results including a win from 10 starts this season.
“There are guys that hit it 50 and 70 metres past me. Luke Brown who I played with today, he was hitting an iron past my driver. It’s a bit demoralising from that sense but if I am hitting it straight, you can still score on most golf courses by doing the percentage things right.”
Joining Pike and Millar in a tie for third are Jake Higginbottom, Ashley Hall, Jordan Mullaney, Neven Basic, Jake McLeod, Scott Arnold and Blake Proverbs.
The second round of the NSW Open tees off at 6.45am with Cameron John on course at 8.05am and Jarryd Felton out at 12.25pm.
Visit pga.org.au for all round one scores and round two tee-times.