Bubba Watson shot a 67 on Thursday in Australia.
Tertius Pickard/AP
Thursday, November 24, 2011

COOLUM, Australia (AP) - Steven Bowditch and Choi Joon-woo shot rounds of 6-under-par 66 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first day of the Australian PGA and outshine a strong field that includes British Open champion Darren Clarke and Americans Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.

Bowditch, playing in intermittent afternoon rain, birdied the 17th and 18th holes after a bogey on No. 16 at the Hyatt Regency resort course. Choi, who plays on the OneAsia tour and has no wins in a four-year pro career, had a chip-in from 90 meters for eagle on the 16th hole.

Watson and Australians Andre Stolz, Aaron Townsend and Aaron Baddeley had 67s, while Wu Kangchun of China was in a large group with 68s. Clarke and Fowler were three behind after 69s.

Three International teammates at last week's Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne - Australia's Jason Day and South Koreans K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang, also shot 69. U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft started strongly, but shot 76 after back-to-back double bogeys on the back nine.

Clarke was in the same group as Adam Scott (70) and Greg Norman (72). Scott made a huge recovery from his opening 40 - including a triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 11th - to shoot 6-under 30 coming home.

Defending champion Peter Senior shot 70 and fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy a 72.

Bowditch, a Sunshine Coast local who has been playing the Coolum course for 15 years, said ``it's in the best shape it's ever been in.''

``They've narrowed a few fairways, the greens are firm and fast,'' said Bowditch, who made a 25-footer for birdie on 18 but had two three-puts on his first three holes.

He'll leave on Monday for the final six rounds of the U.S. PGA Tour qualifying school in California.

``I'm in a fortunate situation, I have conditional status for 15 to 20 starts next year, and I've also got Nationwide,'' Bowditch said. ``The pressure will still be there, though.''

Scott had a rollercoaster of a round - nine birdies, a triple bogey, a double bogey and two bogeys. After a birdie on the 10th to open his round, his 6 on the par-3 third came after a ball in the water, one of three he plunked into ponds on his first nine.

``I played a little too aggressive on those opening holes, then after that, I had to play aggressive,'' Scott said. ``This is the kind of course where you can make birdies, but if you hit bad shots at bad places, it can really hurt you.''

Watson's 67 included a bogey on the par-5 third and birdies on two of the par-3 holes on the front nine, his last. He came to Coolum from Melbourne, where he played in the winning U.S. team at the Presidents Cup.

``I'm not fresh, I'm dead tired,'' Watson said. ``You just have to try to fight through it. I lost my last two matches, so I don't have much confidence coming in. Tomorrow I could come out exhausted and shoot 80.''

Clarke is playing at Coolum for the first time.

``I made a couple of silly plays because I don't know the course and that is where it cost me,'' said Clarke, who arrived on Monday from Northern Ireland. ``It is a long way from home and I'm a little bit tired, the jetlag got me, but I'll have a good rest and get ready for tomorrow.''

Clarke had a bird's-eye view of playing partner Scott's up-and-down round.

``He was shocking at the start and then he played fantastic,'' Clarke said. ``Great performance to come back and shoot 2-under.''

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