Scotland’s Dean Robertson claimed the first round lead at the Heineken Classic with a sensational eagle on his final hole at The Vines Resort in Perth. Robertson, playing in one of the final matches of the day, holed his approach to the 525-yards ninth hole, his last, for a seven under par 65 to finish a stroke ahead of the Australian pair of Greg Norman and Nick O’Hern
The 1998 champion Thomas Björn, Pierre Fulke, Shane Tait and Scott Laycock are a further shot adrift on five under par.
Robertson birdied his third hole of the day – the 12th – before a run of five pars that was broken by a run of three birdies in four holes to the third. After making a succession of fine par saves from the fourth to seventh, Robertson added his fifth birdie of the day at the eighth. The 1999 Italian Open champion then seized the lead with a sensational approach at the ninth that bounced, spun back and rolled in for his eagle.
“The golf game is still a little bit rough at this time of year, but you’ve got to expect that,” said Robertson, who finished in a share of third place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship after opening with a ten under par 62.
“With the wind blowing and the greens drying out every day, patience is the key around here. If you play well you get rewarded. You don’t want to be doing anything silly around here because you can easily shoot a 78, no problem.”
Norman holed out beautifully over the closing holes but saved the best for the last, hitting the flagstick with his second shot to the par five 18th and then calmly holing the ten foot eagle putt for his 66. Playing partner O’Hern safely two putted to join Norman on six under and finish ahead of the quartet of Björn, Fulke, Tait and Laycock.
Norman was going well at three under par after 11 holes but dropped a shot on the 13th to fall back to two under. Long putts at the 15th and 16th took the Great White Shark back to four under par and the final hole eagle put the icing on a superb opening round.
Left-hander O’Hern, who produced some outstanding golf during the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship last month in reaching the quarter-finals before losing out to the eventual winner Steve Stricker at the second extra hole, was again firing on all cylinders with a run of four birdies in five holes to reach the turn at three under par. He moved into a share of the early lead with birdies and 12th and 13th. A bogey on the 15th cost him a shot but O’Hern hit back with two more birdies on the 16th and 18th.
Fulke was delighted at his return to action four weeks after he finished second at the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship in Melbourne. The current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit raced to an outward 31 including an eagle on the 517-yards 18th, hitting a six-iron to four feet.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," admitted Fulke. "The three weeks I was in Sweden it was five to ten degrees below freezing and I didn't hit any shots.
"Instead I did a bit of hunting and got involved in the rebuilding of my house."
Fulke's only mistake was to bogey the first after finding sand, but he came back with a two-putt birdie at the long ninth. What pleased him most was that the putter which let him down in the Melbourne final against Stricker was back in good working order.
Björn won this title three years ago and last January was runner-up to New Zealander Michael Campbell. He again showed his liking for The Vines by hitting all 18 greens in regulation and collecting five birdies.
Third in last week's Mercedes- Benz South African Open, he said: "“I was ready, I wanted to get off to a good start this year, and I know that when I come here that if I am on good form, I certainly know how to play the golf course.”
Starting from the tenth, Björn collected birdies at the tenth, 15th and 17th holes to turn three under before sandwiching further birdies at the second and ninth around a run of seven successive pars.
After going out in 33 with birdies at the fifth, sixth and eighth holes, Tait added further birdies at the tenth, 13th and 14th holes to momentarily claim the outright lead. Bogeys at the 15th and 16th threatened to derail his round, but he bounced back with a birdie at the last to join Björn and Fulke on five-under.
Laycock birdied his first hole, the 10th, but gave the shot back with a bogey at the 17th to be even after eight holes. A burst of eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie saw him leap up the leaderboard, before finishing with eight straight pars.
Defending champion Campbell made a slow start, dropping to one-over through six with a birdie and a pair of bogeys, but an eagle at 18 and birdies at three and five brought him right back into contention on three under par.