A dominant six-under 64 has handed young gun Brady Watt a two-stroke advantage following the first round of the Victorian PGA Championship at RACV Cape Schanck Resort.
And a veteran has wound back the clock with an extraordinary hole-in-one.
Combating blustery conditions, Watt produced an impressive three-birdie, two-eagle round that has catapulted the former World No.1 amateur into contention of securing his first ISPS HANDA Tour of Australasia victory.
“I’m thrilled. I saw the forecast at the start of the week and knew the practice rounds weren’t going to be helpful in adapting to the conditions,” Watt said.
“Luckily I have a few friends that work down here, so over the winter we played a lot of rounds to better understand the conditions and pins.”
The 29-year-old is clear of New Zealander Denzel Ieremia and 2019 TX Civil & Logistics WA PGA champion Darren Beck, who both shot four-under 66s.
Six players are tied for 4th with reigning Vic PGA champion Aaron Pike, Jarryd Felton, Michael Sim, Michael Wright, Jason Norris and Aaron Wilkin all scoring three-under 67s.
Watt was last year absent from competitive golf, opting to have a gap year after five years competing in Latino America and on Canada’s Mackenzie Tour.
He said time away from the game was the “ultimate reset”, where he also worked at his parents’ cleaning company and got “a taste of the normal life”.
“I’m feeling great. Today has given me confidence. I’m looking forward to the challenge of tomorrow,” he said.
After being six-over the card as he switched to the front nine, Terry Pilkadaris clawed his way back up the leaderboard, thanks to an incredible ace on the 7th hole.
Using a 7-iron, Pilkadaris overshot the green, but a fortuitous slope guided the ball into the cup.
“I definitely needed that ace to get me back in the game. It’s my 13th hole-in-one across my career. Hopefully it brings me more luck,” Pilkadaris said.
Last year’s winner Pike, who shot a bogey-free 67, highlighted the difficulty in mastering the Mornington Peninsula course.
He said patience was paramount in taming the brutal undulating resort.
“My secret to winning out hear is whoever is the most patient. You’re going to get beat up by this golf course. The weather’s gonna get ya. Most of the guys beat themselves before they let the golf course beat them,” Pike said.
“I played well late, but realistically that was probably the worst score I could’ve had. I missed about three putts inside four or five feet, which is normally a strength of my game.”
Felton launched to a promising start, hitting three front-nine birdies before succumbing to the challenging course with a pair of bogies.
“I was a little disappointing in the back nine, but I got off to a good start,” the 24-year-old said.
“I managed to putt a ball into a bunker today, which is a first. My game had to adapt to conditions."
The West Australian, who recently finished second at the WA PGA, credits his string of consistent performances to controlling his temper, recruiting a new mental skills coach that has reformed his emotions.
“I’ve changed my mental coach, which can be attributed to my good form,” he said.
“I do get angry on the course. I can identify these moments better and bring myself back. It’s definitely helped my game.”
The winner of the 2019 Vic PGA Championship will receive the bulk of the $125,000 prize course, as well as Official World Golf Ranking Points and full exemption onto the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the 2020 season, including a place in the Australian PGA Championship field.
PGATV will be live streaming round three on Saturday (1pm-4pm AEDT) and Sunday’s round four (noon-5pm AEDT).
Round two got underway at 7:30am this morning, with Watt teeing off from the 10th tee at 1:54pm.