Cullen steals Scott's thunder to lead Australian Masters

Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:24am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Unheralded local player Nick Cullen upstaged defending champion Adam Scott by shooting a sparkling six-under 65 to take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the Australian Masters on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Cullen, ranked well outside the world's top 300, grabbed a share of the lead with compatriot Scott after a sublime chip-in for eagle on the par-four 11th, then left the U.S. Masters champion in his wake by rolling in three more birdies on a chilly, blustery day at Royal Melbourne.

Having long lived in the shadow of twin brother Dan, an elite cricketer who played a test match for Australia, Cullen was tickled to see his name at the top of the leader board above the headline act.

"I think it's an amazing golf course and I'm really loving it here this week," the Adelaide professional told reporters after offsetting two bogeys with six birdies at the famed sand belt course.

Enjoying a rich vein of form, Scott teed off early and carded a solid four-under 67 to sit tied for second with German Maximilian Kieffer.

The world number two caught fire with four straight birdies in the middle of his round, thrilling hundreds of fans that stuck by him through a drizzly morning, but he marched straight to the practice range to bash a few dozen balls in frustration after his ball-striking wavered in the closing holes.

"Sixty-seven around here is a good score," Scott said after a five-birdie round marred only by a solitary bogey on his second-last hole.

"I felt like I left a couple out there but my game is in pretty good shape and four rounds like that might go a long way this week."   Continued...

Nick Cullen of Australia watches his shot during the Championship Pro-Am of Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin April 18, 2012. REUTERS/OneAsia/Paul Lakatos/Handout