Australian left hander, Nick O'Hern, gathered four birdies and two precious eagles as he accumulated 18 points to lead the way after the first round of the ANZ Championship at Horizons Golf Resort, Port Stephens, in New South Wales.
Under the modified Stableford format, the eagle threes at the 12th and 16th holes were worth five points each and catapulted the 32 year old from Perth into a two point advantage over England’s John Bickerton with teenage amateur Nick Flanagan of Australia sharing third place along with another Englishman, Steve Webster, on 14 points.
O’Hern did not drop a shot as he fired an eight under par 64, with the pair of soaring eagles making all the difference to his score. Starting on the tenth, O’Hern went to the turn in 30, collecting 14 points in the process.
"I really lit up on my front nine," he commented. “I just went at every flag. I think you have really got to go after things and if you make a bogey it is only one point lost which doesn't hurt too much.
"I haven't been playing well lately but today something clicked. When you get in the groove you get in an aggressive frame of mind and you go at anything."
Bickerton, second on five occasions but still seeking that elusive first victory on The European Tour International Schedule, made his score in altogether different fashion. Without the aid of any eagles, he bagged eight birdies, also for a round of 64, worth 16 points. Whereas O’Hern covered the stretch between ten and 18 in 30, Bickerton did the same from the first to the ninth.
Flanagan, only 19 and the current US Amateur Champion, underlined his vast potential by shooting an opening 67 for 14 points, the same mark as Webster who, like Bickerton, is chasing his first win and has four runner-up finishes to his name.
Defending chapion, Paul Casey was tied 62nd on four points while England’s Laura Davies, playing in her first European Tour event on a sponsor’s invitation, shot 75 for -1 points and a share of 124th place with nine other players.