Co-leaders Cameron John and Dimi Papadatos are expecting the Moonah Links Legends Course to bite back hard after players used benign conditions to plunder birdies and eagles in round one of the Victorian PGA Championship on Thursday.
New South Welshman Josh Clarke shot to prominence when he established a new course record of nine-under 63 in the morning wave but with a rare calm day placing the course at their mercy John and Papadatos set a new benchmark with matching rounds of 10-under 62.
Queensland’s Aaron Wilkin closed with consecutive birdies to join Clarke in a tie for third at nine under with David McKenzie, Blake Windred and James Marchesani all a shot further back after posting eight-under 64 in their opening rounds.
A member at both Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne and more recently Peninsula-Kingswood, John has extensive experience playing the courses of the Mornington Peninsula and conceded that the conditions for scoring on Thursday could not have been better.
And that the predicted forecast for Friday was unavoidable.
Heavy rain, strong winds and possible thunderstorms are all expected but John says good scoring will still be possible for those who approach it in the right manner.
“Today’s conditions were as good as it will ever get down here,” said John, whose best score in an ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia-sanctioned event is 11-under 60 in the 2018 Morobe Open in Papua New Guinea.
“It wasn’t windy so it was a matter of just looking at the holes and if you put a decent swing on it it’s not going to move off line.
“(Bad weather) is bound to happen once probably every week you come down here. If you come down here for a week one day’s going to be bad. You’ve just got to grin and bear it and hold onto your hat as much as you can.
“I’m sure the scores won’t be as good tomorrow but if I hit it as solid as I did today it’s always an opportunity to shoot a really good number.”
Papadatos opened the Gippsland Super 6 tournament a fortnight ago with a six-under 66 and used an eagle at his opening hole – the par-5 9th – to get into stride quickly at Moonah Links.
“I knew the scoring was good so I was aware that even though I was probably five under pretty early I needed to keep pushing on from there,” said Papadatos, who set up his opening eagle by hitting 3-iron from 215 metres to 10 feet.
“It’s a good position to be in but I still had a lot of opportunities so I wanted to make the most of my round.
“I made quite a few birdies going out and then I had the easier nine coming in so I wanted to make sure I made the most of it to finish off the round.”
With a previous tournament best of 64, the Central Coast native took a moment prior to playing his final approach shot to sharpen his focus on a rare opportunity.
“I was in the middle of the fairway on the last and thought, 'Geez it would be nice to birdie this' because I haven’t had 10-under before,” said the 2017 Vic Open champion.
“I stepped back away from it and thought about hitting it in there close and hit a good one in there to eight feet and rolled it in.
“I think my best score in a tournament before today was 64 so this is something different for me.”
David McKenzie had to be convinced by his wife to play a practice round at all on Wednesday and skipping two holes didn’t affect him, the 2013 Vic PGA champion making birdie at both the 13th and 14th holes in his round of 64.
“I made a few nice putts, that was the big thing,” McKenzie said.
“I made a six-footer on the first and the second hole I drove it onto the front edge of the green and putted it almost off the other side of the green and then holed a 20-footer coming back.
“Ultimately I made a lot of putts in the 15-20 foot range and that’s how you have your low rounds.”
Novocastrian Blake Windred was on his way to posting a round that would have positioned him mid-field until an eagle at the par-5 6th and birdies at 7 and 8 elevated him to within two shots of the lead.
“My caddy, Jack Pountney, with three holes to go he told me there was a score of nine in when I was at four,” Windred said.
“We kind of recognised that we needed a couple more birdies and then I made eagle at 6, hit it to a foot from 85 metres on the next and then holed an 18-footer on the last across the slope.
“He gave me a nudge to make me realise that five or six under wasn’t going to be that good today. It actually helped me a lot and made me go into that last hole trying to finish off with a couple of birdies."
A total of 31 players began their Vic PGA campaigns with rounds of five under or better including last week’s winner at The Players Series Brad Kennedy, who recorded two eagles for the second round in succession in a six-under 66.