Mike Hendry’s quest to top the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit suffered a setback on the opening day of the season-ending $A1.25 million PGA Championship on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast today.
The New Zealander, who led the Order until Peter Senior overtook him by winning the Australian Open in Sydney last Sunday, gave up more ground to the Australian veteran after not being able to break par at the Coolum Resort.
Hendry had to settle for a one-over 73 and while Senior, who is $A15,500 better off than the 32-year-old Aucklander ($A243,500), signed for a 4-under 68 to be provisionally tied for sixth.
A nine-birdie blitz by Daniel Popovic saw the Victorian professional finish atop the leader board at eight-under, two strokes clear of fellow Australian Scott Strange.
A double bogey on the 529-metre par 5, 15th undermined Hendry’s round after he opened his assault on the $A225,000 winner’s cheque on the back nine with a birdie.
He experienced his first glitch on the next but made amends with a birdie on the 12th before dropping a shot at the 14th – the precursor to his costly excursion down the narrow, water-fringed fairway.
The 15th is regarded as a make-or-break hole and Hendry enhanced its reputation by getting in strife before putting out to make seven.
Hendry, who qualified for the 2013 Japan Tour earlier this month, was thankfully blemish-free from then on and managed to retrieve a shot on the front nine thanks to a birdie on the par-5 fifth.
Although delighted to make the Japan Tour for the first time, the Order of Merit remains an enticement for Hendry given it offers a range of exemptions to tournaments including next year’s British Open.
Josh Geary, the first player to eagle the par-5 fifth, was three-under through six and maintained that position to be the best of the dozen-strong Kiwi contingent in a share of 11th after crafting a 69.
Mark Brown and David Smail carded solid one-under 71s, Nick Gillespie starts tomorrow at even par and Michael Long managed a 74.
Ryan Fox was three-under after 10 and in a tie for third before his round unravelled spectacularly on the back nine.
He copped a triple bogey on the par-5 12th, recovered with back-to-back birdies but then had the same problem as Hendry on the 15th – a double bogey.
Fox then racked up another bogey and double bogey before a par on the last left him to contemplate a 3-over 75.
Gareth Paddison parred the troublesome 15th, but had issues elsewhere as a round littered with three bogeys and consecutive double bogeys also condemned him to the same score as Fox – Brad Shilton was a shot adrift on 76.
Hamish Robertson, Mahal Pearce and Doug Holloway are destined to miss the cut after finishing at five-over.
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