Lyle takes Oz Open lead

2011-11-10 06:47

Sydney - Jarrod Lyle had the early lead at the Australian Open with a 7-under 65 on Thursday, while Dustin Johnson led an American contingent on the leaderboard at The Lakes.

Johnson led a small group of Americans who got off to a good start in Australia as their tuneup for the Presidents Cup. One of their better scores belonged to someone who won't even be playing in matches - US captain Fred Couples.

Lyle had a one-shot lead over Johnson, who overcame a sloppy start by running off five straight birdies on the back nine.

"I was a little rusty," Johnson said. "It was my first time in competition for about six weeks."

Couples, who played the 50-and-old Champion Tour's final event last week in San Francisco, played in the group behind Johnson and birdied his final hole at the par-3 ninth for a 67.

Greg Norman, the International captain next week at Royal Melbourne, had a 71. Norman won his first Australian Open at The Lakes in 1980 - before five players on his team were even born.

Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy had a 70.

Tiger Woods was among the late starters on a day that featured rain in the morning and the threat of more bad weather in the afternoon. He was playing one group ahead of Adam Scott and ex-caddie Steve Williams, who last week used a racial slur to make disparaging comments about his former boss.

Woods made an unlucky start as he watched three birdie putts lip out early in his round and was at even par after six holes.

Woods' putt from 10 feet curled around the first hole, then did the same from about 18 feet on the fourth. On the fifth, his ball did a complete horseshoe, and Woods looked exasperated as he tapped in for par.

On the par-4 sixth, Woods missed another birdie chance from about six feet, this time pulling his putt wide of the hole.

This is the two-year anniversary of Woods' last professional win, which came down in Melbourne at the 2009 Australian Masters.

Johnson arrived Sunday and has been playing a little bit each day to help shake off the rust and get acclimated to being in another part of the world. He missed a 4-foot par putt on the 10th, then missed a 5-foot birdie on the par-5 11th.

From there, he overpowered The Lakes. Johnson hit driver and sand wedge on the uphill, 447-yard 12th hole to tap-in range, hit a lob wedge to a foot for birdie on the next hole, then recovered from a poor tee shot by hitting 7-iron from the bunker to 10 feet on the par-5 14th, having to settle for a two-putt birdie.

The longest putt he made during that stretch of five birdies was from about 8 feet.

John Cook, the replacement for Michael Jordan as Couples' assistant in the Presidents Cup, opened with a 69.

Two other Americans who actually are playing in matches - Bill Haas and David Toms - opened at 72.

Lyle didn't play the par 5s very well, and all of them are considered in range. But he made up for it on the 14th with an eagle that gave him the outright lead, and he added a birdie on the 16th to secure the lead.

Leading first round scores from the $1.54m Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club (par 72) on Thursday (Australian unless stated):

65 - Jarrod Lyle

66 - Dustin Johnson (USA), Nick Watney (USA)

67 - Fred Couples (USA), Greg Chalmers, James Nitties, Steven Jones

68 - Bubba Watson (USA), Andrew Tschudin, Matthew Millar, Jake Higginbottom,

Kim Woo-Hyun (KOR), Tiger Woods (USA)

69 - Leigh McKechnie, Damon Welsford, David McKendrick, Craig Hasthorpe, John Cook (USA), Paul Sheehan, Rohan Blizard, Adam Scott, Nick O'Hern, Jason Day, Matthew Jones, Stephen Allan

Selected scores:

70 - Ronald Harvey (CAN), Geoff Ogilvy

71 - Wittawatt Sae-Ung (THA), Greg Norman, Kelly Kraft (USA)

72 - Wisut Artjanawat (THA), Bill Haas (USA), David Toms (USA), Kyle Stanley (USA)

73 - Hunter Mahan (USA)

74 - Matt Kuchar (USA)