SYDNEY: Australian Peter Fowler, whose last tournament victory came nearly 10 years ago in Germany, shot an eight-under 64 yesterday to take the first-round lead at the ANZ Championship.
Fowler picked up 17 points in the modified Stableford format that gives players eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle, two for a birdie, none for a par, minus-one for a bogey and minus-three for a double bogey or worse.
Most of the leaders had early starts on the par-72 New South Wales Golf Club course.
Fellow Australian Stuart Appleby also shot a 64 but picked up only 16 points to hold second place, a point behind Fowler, while Peter Lonard, who finished in a tie for second behind winner Ernie Els at last week's Heineken Classic in Melbourne, shot a 65 to sit in third place with 15 points.
Lonard’s round included a five-point eagle on the par-5 12th and a birdie on 18th. Countryman Craig Parry birdied the 18th to move into fourth place with 14 points, also after a 65.
Three players are tied for fifth with 12 points – Australian Steve Collins, Tobias Dier of Germany and Matthew Blackey of England. Blackey shot 66 while Dier and Collins each shot 67 in the joint European-Australasian Tours event.
Five are tied for eighth place with 11 points, including David Howell of England (69) and Swede Robert Karlsson, who shot a 68.
Fowler’s last win was at the 1993 BMW International, although he won the Australian Open in 1983 and was runner-up on the European Tour six times between 1984 and 1992.
He’s made four trips to the European Tour qualifying school.
Last year, Fowler finished 63rd in the European Order of Merit – his highest since 1993 – with three top 10 finishes, including a tie for second at the Heineken Classic. He finished in the money in 19 of 28 European events.
“It’s hard work to continue playing but my game’s coming together,” said Fowler, 43. “It’s hard losing your card and being told you’re not good enough so I’ve had to dig deep.”
He now works out six times a week in the gym for more than an hour at a time and does interval training on a bike.
“It’s some kick in the pants to lose your card when it’s what you want all your life. I really had to think hard and get help from good people and it’s paid off.” – AP