Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)
Thomas Björn was pleased to overcome an early double bogey to take a share of the first round lead at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf.
Björn was a runner-up with Søren Hansen back in 2001 under the old format – the closest Denmark have come to World Cup success.
This year’s event at Royal Melbourne offers individual and team prizes, and Björn’s five under par 66 put him right in contention for both.
An eight foot birdie putt at the last gave the 42 year old a seventh gain of the day to tie with American Kevin Streelman atop the leaderboard, one ahead of Wales’ Stuart Manley, Scot Martin Laird and South Korea’s K J Choi.
With his partner Thorbjørn Olesen carding a level par 71, Denmark also share the lead in the team competition alongside defending champions the United States.
“I played well today,” said Björn. “I got off to a bit of a not so great start when I four-putted number four and then I thought, ‘well, this could be a long day’, but I kept my composure and made some good birdies.
“I did everything well today. I drove it pretty well.
“There’s so many things that can go wrong on this golf course and you have just got to keep yourself out of trouble and play some smart clubs off the tee and try and hit a lot of fairways and hit the middle of the green.”
Streelman holed from 12 feet for birdie at the tenth and made it two in a row when he spun his approach to six feet at the next.
The American got to seven under with three to play, but a wayward drive at the 16th led to a bogey and he dropped another shot at the difficult 18th.
Manley, still riding on the crest of a wave having taken the tenth card at The European Tour Qualifying School in Girona last week, holed a 20 footer at tenth for one of five birdies in his round.
“I played pretty well the week before Q School as well, just missed my card on the Challenge Tour,” said the 34 year old.
“So to get my card at Q School then was a big relief. I had played pretty solid and not to get a card at the end of it would be pretty harsh I think, so I’m pretty happy.”
Laird had five birdies and one bogey in his 67, and was pleased with his first showing on the notoriously difficult Royal Melbourne lay-out.
“Obviously very happy with my first ever competitive round around here,” said the Scot. “A good start and it is one of those courses you always feel like you can go a little better than you did, but that is what is so good about it so obviously very happy.”
Choi had been on course to match Björn’s 66, but was bunkered at the last and bogeyed.
Pre-tournament favourite Adam Scott, winner of the Talisker Masters on this course last week, ran up a nine at the par four 12th after losing a ball in a bush as he finished the first day four over par.