GOLD COAST, Australia: A pair of lesser-known Australians stole the limelight from headline act Sergio Garcia in the first round of the Australian PGA on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Thursday.
Jordan Zunic and Adam Bland both shot six-under-par 66s on the par 72 Royal Pines Resort on a day marred by heavy rain that caused a number of delays.
The pair finished one shot clear of reigning US Masters champion Garcia and recent BMW Championship winner Marc Leishman.
Veteran Australian Peter Senior and his fellow Queenslanders Daniel Nisbet and Michael Wright also finished five under the card.
Garcia, who teed off at the early time of 6.10, had five birdies and no bogies in his round of 67.
Playing alongside fellow US Masters winner Adam Scott and last week’s Hong Kong Open champion Wade Ormsby (who both shot 71), Garcia’s round was interrupted by heavy rain sweeping across southeast Queensland.
The 37-year-old Spaniard said he was pleased with his score on a course he had not seen before Wednesday’s practice round.
“Obviously a couple of rain delays on the course is not what you hope for, but other than that I felt like I played pretty solid,” Garcia said.
“I wouldn’t say that it was amazing but it was good.
“The most positive thing for me would be to go a bogey-free round, which I didn’t realise until we got done.
“I’m obviously extremely proud of the way I scored, being the second time I played the course.”
“In practice rounds I’ve done it before, but in a tournament I think probably the earliest I’ve teed off was 6:50, maybe 7:00,” he added.
“It was interesting. I think it was probably the closest I’ve had a dinner and a breakfast ever.”
Leishman took out the biggest title of his career in September when he won the BMW Championship on the US PGA Tour, the third leg of the lucrative Fed-Ex Cup play-off tournaments.
He was one-over after seven holes on Thursday before firing five birdies and an eagle to soar up the leaderboard, his only blemish on the back nine was a bogey on the par 3, 14th.
Unlike Garcia, Leishman has played the course many times before and said that had helped him.
“The experience around a course like this when the greens are as severe as they are (is helpful),” he said.
“There’s a few runoffs and it’s nice to know where they run off from, and I’ve missed a few greens around here in the past.
“So I know the holes where I can attack and the holes where I have to back off a little bit.”
Senior, 58, now plays on the European Senior Tour but lives on nearby Hope Island and showed his local knowledge with his opening 67.
The veteran Queenslander won the first of his three Australian PGA titles in 1989 but showed with his 2015 Australian Masters victory that he cannot be discounted.