MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Steven Bowditch shot a five-under 67 for a share of the lead after the first round of the Australian Masters in Melbourne on Thursday, upstaging headline act Adam Scott who struggled to cope with windy conditions.
Bowditch, who celebrated his maiden U.S. Tour win at the Texas Open in March, rolled in four birdies and an eagle in mostly foul conditions at Metropolitan Golf Club before ruing a missed tap-in putt on the 18th that cost him the outright lead.
The 31-year-old will start Friday in a four-way tie with fellow Australians Michael Wright, Stephen Allan and Todd Sinnott, with double defending champion Scott six strokes behind after laboring to a one-over 73.
“I don’t know what I did on 18,” Bowditch told reporters after a gloomy day that blew dust in players’ faces in the morning before dousing the later groups with light rain.
“It was tough off and on ... It got really windy early, then slowed down, windy (again), changed direction.
“It can get tough out there.”
Australians Rhein Gibson and Aaron Price were a stroke further adrift on four-under after shooting 68s.
World number two Scott, bidding for an unprecedented third successive title in the A$1 million ($860,000) event, fumed as hot, northerly winds in the morning turned the sandbelt course into a suburban dust-bowl.
Starting on the 10th, Scott went to the turn at three-over after a double-bogey on the 18th, but clawed back an eagle on the par-five sixth and trudged off with a mixture of relief and frustration.
“If the conditions are the same (tomorrow), just everyone’s out there just hanging on doing the best they can,” last year’s U.S. Masters champion told reporters by the scoring hut.
“There’s no way to attack in this wind.”
Wright, however, rolled in six birdies and begged for more of the same.
“If it blows like this, the greens are going to be that hard and fast,” said the 40-year-old Queensland journeyman.
“But at the same time, that’s Australian golf and that’s why it’s so good.”
A croaky-sounding Geoff Ogilvy kept in touch, shooting a solid three-under.
“With the sand and stuff flying around, everyone is going to be a bit messed up today, getting stuff in the eyes and nose,” said the 2006 U.S. Open champion.
“It’s a welcome to Melbourne, really.”
Weekley, playing with good friend Bowditch, shot an even-par 72.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Peter Rutherford