COOLUM, Australia (AP) — South Korean Han Min-kyu upstaged the big-name locals at the Australian PGA on Thursday, shooting a 9-under-par 62 to take a four-stroke lead after the first round.
Han, who teed off at 6:25 a.m. in mild conditions and with little wind at the revamped Hyatt Regency resort course, had 11 birdies and two bogeys – on the first and 18th.
Ryan Haller was second after a 66, followed by five other Australians at 67: Stuart Appleby, Matthew Griffin, Scott Strange, Andrew Dodt and Henry Epstein.
Adam Scott, last week’s Australian Open winner, was in a group at 68. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby each shot 70 and John Daly had a 71.
Han, who birdied his first four holes, is one of 15 South Koreans in the tournament, which is now part of the One Asia regional tour.
“I played like Tiger Woods today,” Han said after his round which included just 21 putts. “I felt almost like I was in heaven.”
Han, 26, lived in Florida for five years from the age of 16 to develop his game. He was winless in 16 tournaments on the Korean tour last year, although he was close in the final round of one tournament before shooting 80.
He made his first appearance in an Australian tournament at last week’s Australian Open in Sydney, where he missed the cut by one stroke.
Haller, recovering from the disappointment of two weeks ago when he missed out on a Japanese tour card by just one stroke in qualifying, was surprised by the names on Thursday’s leaderboard.
“No disrespect to Mr. Han, but I have never heard of him,” Haller said. “I looked at the leaderboard because I liked looking at my name up there. It’s not there very often.”
Scott had a strong start – four birdies after starting on the back nine – “but I just didn’t keep it going.” He had three bogeys on his final nine, including three-putting from just off the green for bogey on his last hole.
“I missed three fairways in a row, and that was annoying,” Scott said. “It was still a pretty good round, though.”
Scott was impressed with Han.
“Good for him, he ran with it,” he said. “That’s what you have got to do when you’ve got everything right and not be afraid to go low.”
The first six holes of the course are new because a portion of the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout, between a coastal road and the Pacific Ocean, was earmarked for development.
The course was par 72 until this year. The old course record of 63 was set by five players, the last time by Nick O’Hern in 2006.
Allenby, who won last week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, had early trouble on the first, which is lined by water on the entire left side and along the front and right side of the green.
Allenby’s tee shot trickled into the edge of the creek, and he took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his trousers to attempt to knock it out. The ball moved only about 10 feet – just out of the hazard – and Allenby made bogey.
“A little bit of jet lag there, but there’s a lot of golf to be played,” said Allenby.
He wasn’t alone in having problems on the first hole. There were 30 bogeys, three double bogeys, two 8s and a 9 on the first, and only 33 birdies and one eagle.
That’s a rarity in pro tournaments, when players usually look to make up, not give up, strokes on the par-5s.