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Thursday, 02 August 2018
Andrew Dodt of Australia tees off during Day One at the Fiji International  (Getty Images)
Andrew Dodt of Australia tees off during Day One at the Fiji International (Getty Images)

Andrew Dodt, Nick Cullen, Jarryd Felton and Ben Campbell shared a two-shot lead as Australians dominated proceedings on day one of the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.

Playing in windy conditions in the morning, the Australian trio carded five under par rounds of 67 to take the lead and only New Zealander Campbell could catch them as the wind got up even more in the afternoon at Natadola Bay Golf Club.

Australians Maverick Antcliff, Matthew Griffin and Stephen Leaney were then at three under with just 18 players under par.

Two-time European Tour winner Dodt finished a career-best 44th on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex last season but is yet to register a top ten this term as he looks for a first win since 2015.

The 32 year old started his round with five pars but birdied the 15th and an eagle on the 17th saw him turn in 33, with further gains coming on the first and fifth.

Today was a step in the right direction. That's one with three to go - Andrew Dodt

"That was not easy," he said. "It was very tough, very windy, you had to control your ball, course management was a big factor. It was a really, really solid round.

"The last six months haven't been that great. I haven't been able to put four rounds together, I've put rounds together here and there, so today was a step in the right direction. That's one with three to go."

Challenge Tour regular Cullen finished 26th last season on the Road to Oman and like Dodt he is looking for a first top ten of the campaign.

The 34 year old got off to a fast start with gains on the 11th, 12th and 15th and he bounced back from a bogey on the 16th with a birdie on the 17th. Another birdie came on the third and when he holed a ten-footer on the par five ninth, he was in a share of top spot.

"It was pretty solid," he said. "I think I only made one bogey and that was a three-putt. I hit a couple of really good iron shots to a foot and holed a couple of putts, just pretty solid.

"It wasn't the best warm-up, I didn't feel that great on the range. Sometimes you end up having good days after that, so it worked out well."

Felton - who finished in the top ten here last season - tuned in 33 with birdies on the third, seventh and ninth and after a bogey on the 11th, he birdied the 15th and chipped in for an eagle on the 17th to make it a three-way tie.

"It was really good," he said. "I got off to a really good start, holed a couple of nice putts on the front nine for par and then kept the momentum going onto the back. Made a soft bogey but there's plenty of chances out here."

Campbell turned in 34 with birdies on the 12th, 17th and 18th and a bogey on the 13th before going birdie-bogey-birdie to start the front nine. Back-to-back birdies on the sixth and seventh then handed him a share of the lead late in the day.

"It was nice," he said. "Always nice to get off to a good start like that, especially this afternoon, the wind was up. I played solid the whole day, a couple of bogeys but made a few birdies and kind of finished off nicely, so it was good."

I didn't feel that great on the range. Sometimes you end up having good days after that, so it worked out well - Nick Cullen

Leaney is a four-time winner on the European Tour but his last victory came in 2002, and he was bogey-free with birdies on the third, fifth and 13th.

A hat-trick of birdies from the 17th had Griffin in a share of fifth after another bogey-free effort.

Antcliff birded the first, fourth and ninth to turn in 33 but came home in level par with gains on the 13th and 17th and bogeys on the 11th and 16th.

Lucas Herbert has three top tens on the European Tour this season and he carded a roller coaster 70 with two eagles, three birdies, three bogeys and a double.

Fellow Australian Terry Pilkadaris was bogey-free to also sit at two under alongside South African Justin Walters, China's Wu Ashun, Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar, New Zealander Harry Bateman and local favourite Sam Lee.

Four-time Major Championship winner Ernie Els was level par after making four birdies and four bogeys in a 72, a score matched by defending champion Jason Norris.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BHULLAR, GaganjeetIND18-14
2QUAYLE, AnthonyAUS18-13
T3ELS, ErnieRSA18-12
T3CAMPBELL, BenNZL18-12
5FELTON, JarrydAUS18-10
T6SAKSANSIN, PoomTHA18-8

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