Having assumed the early clubhouse lead, which would become the overnight lead, John Senden was asked what he had been doing to prepare for a tilt at the Australian Open.
''I was caddying for my little fellow Jacob,'' Senden said of his eight-year-old boy. ''He is starting to get to know the game of golf a bit. He has always been able to hit the ball well. Now is the time to get him on the golf course to learn a bit about walking six, seven or eight holes, learning about etiquette. He is starting to get the gist of it all.''
So, of course, is Senden snr. The 2006 Australian Open winner shot six under on Thursday to hold a two-stroke lead over five players; Englishman Justin Rose, Kiwi Gareth Paddison, and an Australian trio of Kim Felton, Richard Green and Brendan Jones.
Senden is clearly on the march at the Lakes and also in general. After finishing second behind Greg Chalmers in last year's Open, he broke into the world's top 100 and, leading into this week's tournament, was ranked 38. His form is good enough to declare it the best he can recall.
''I am playing some of the best golf of my life,'' Senden said. ''I need to believe in that and keep going forward. The results have shown in the past couple of years. I have been inside the top 30 and been consistent. I have taken those feelings and brought them home to Australia. I feel better for that. I am learning every year. I feel I can keep improving and keep knocking on the door in every event I play.''
With Senden just behind two top-10 players in Rose and Adam Scott in tournament betting before the first round, it is clear many are starting to believe Senden is up there with the best in the sport. Importantly, Senden believes it, and he is setting his sights on a maiden major.
''I said to you guys four or five years ago that I needed to get more experience in the major championships,'' he said. ''Each year I'd get in one or two, possibly. For the last three years, I've been getting into all four. That has been much better experience for me. If I keep working hard on my game and getting this experience in the major championships, playing with the best players in the world, that's one of the goals.
''It's about gaining the experience, being in form, winning other tournaments to handle that situation better. I have not been in contention a lot in major championships but I think if I keep improving and keep knocking on the door in the regular events, I think I can set the goals and knock on the door in the major championships.''
Importantly, Senden feels comfortable in the company of the top players. ''I have played with them all,'' he said. ''It is about standing on the stage and being comfortable. That's where it's at. I feel I am getting better at that ... I need to keep continuing in that direction and keep everything simple and just play.''
Senden, along with most of the best scorers, was able to take advantage of the calmer early conditions. The afternoon players all found low scoring more difficult, although Jones snuck into a tie for second from an afternoon start.
His fellow Australian Marcus Fraser also took advantage of a hole in one on the par-three 15th to be three shots off the lead at three under.
Rose, meanwhile, is still lurking, and said he was ''delighted to get off to a good start''. But his playing partner Scott, the pre-tournament favourite, has some ground to make up after shooting an even-par round.
''I tried to play quite aggressively my first nine and hit a few ordinary shots,'' Scott said. ''Nothing too bad but I got in a bit of trouble and wasted opportunities out there. I'm certainly giving them a head start this week.''
Still, Scott had more success than many of the other tournament drawcards; American veteran Tom Watson lamented a six-over round, while 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang, shot 10 over.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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