SYDNEY (Reuters) - Unheralded local Lincoln Tighe upstaged a field including world number one Jordan Spieth and a string of major winners after swirling winds wreaked havoc on the opening round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The big-hitting 26-year-old, so lowly-ranked he was denied a spot in Wednesday’s pro-am, carded a five-under-par 66 early in the day and only Matt Jones, a member of the host Australian Golf Club, was able to come close in the afternoon with a 67.
Defending champion Spieth broke even with a 71, which left him with a share of 19th on a day when only 18 players finished below par.
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy coped better with the shifting wind and sweltering heat than most of the more feted golfers, recording a 68 for a share of third with Taiwanese amateur Yu Chun-An and compatriot Todd Sinnott.
“The wind is so flukey out there,” said the Australian, who should at least end his run of five missed cuts on Friday.
“You don’t even know what’s going to go on today. I have absolutely no sense of what sort of score it’s going to be at the end of the tournament, but if I play well I’ve got every chance to be there.”
Spieth, playing with Ogilvy and former world number one Lee Westwood (70), admitted his uncertainty over how to deal with the wind had led him into a “brain fart” in his club selection at the final hole, which he bogeyed.
“I just didn’t know what to hit, I was apparently two clubs off ... We just had no idea on that fairway,” the U.S. Open and Masters champion said.
“I think I’ll go get some rest, it was an early morning, and come out tomorrow ready for a low one,” he added.
The 22-year-old American mixed three birdies with three bogeys playing what he admitted was “pretty boring golf” but for up-and-down rounds, it would have been hard to beat the 71 put together by Adam Scott.
The former Masters champion picked up two double bogeys before the turn, only saving himself from worse by chipping in from a waterside bank at the ninth.
Three birdies in four holes from the 11th steadied the round before a bogey at the 17th pushed him back over par and he needed a sixth birdie at the last to finish back where he started.
“Anything par or better is a good score out there this afternoon,” said the Australian. “I’ve got to go home tonight pretty happy with that.”
Tighe, ranked 1,022nd in the world, made the most of his local knowledge to hit seven birdies for his one-stroke lead.
“I’ve always loved this place, probably because it suits me down to the ground,” he said. “I know I can carry a lot of the bunkers off the tee. If I‘m hitting it good, it’s rewarding.”
Peter Senior, who won the Australian Masters at the age of 56 last weekend, came down to earth with a bump after carding a nine-over 80.
“It was a terrible round,” he said. “I felt a bit embarrassed really.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty