Gil Hanse’s Olympic course in Rio has drawn comparisons to the classic Sandbelt courses of Australia like Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne. No surprise, then, that Australian Marcus Fraser made nine birdies to shoot 63 and take the first-round lead at the men’s golf competition in Rio, marking the sport’s long-awaited return to the Olympics.
Among the early tee times, Fraser put some distance between himself and everyone else. He was three strokes ahead of Canada’s Graham DeLaet (66) and four up on Belgium’s Thomas Pieters (67) with several players yet to finish.
While the course may have reminded him of home, Fraser is a bit of a surprise at the top of the leaderboard. He’s ranked 90th in the world and turned 38 two weeks ago. If observers touted an Australian to win gold, that Aussie likely would have been Jason Day or Adam Scott, neither of whom chose to compete in the Games, opening up a spot for Fraser.
A three-time winner on the European Tour — his last victory coming at the Maybank Malaysia Championship in February — Fraser last made news when he complained about Baltusrol being too one-dimensional and favoring the longer hitters at last month’s PGA Championship, where he finished 73rd. Presumably the Olympics course is more to his liking.