FP – Robert Allenby has bounced back from last week’s mid-round caddie bust-up with a strong start to the US PGA Tour’s event in Virginia.
Allenby was the best of the Australians after the opening round on Thursday, carding a four-under 67 to sit tied for 18th, four shots off the lead held by Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and South Africa’s Retief Goosen.
It was a welcome and significant turnaround from the first round at the Canadian Open in Toronto.
After nine holes at Glen Abbey in Ontario, caddie Mick Middlemo dropped the bag and walked off the course after claiming Allenby verbally abused him amid a dispute sparked by a wrong club selection.
Allenby went on to card an 81, withdraw from the tournament and return to his home in Florida.
The 44-year-old has missed the cut nine times since another incident in Hawaii in January when he was bashed and kidnapped at the end of a night out following the second round of the Sony Open.
Allenby, at No.182 on the season standings, needs to finish in the top 125 to automatically secure his tour card for next year.
Ishikawa fired a hole-in-one during a sparkling eight-under-par 63 to grab a share of the lead at the 7,385-yard Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville.
The 23-year-old Asian star reeled off six birdies in a row to match two-time US Open champion Goosen, twice Ishikawa’s age, atop the leaderboard.
“It was a great day for my putting,” said Ishikawa after his best round of the year.
“I just putted them perfectly. I just didn’t miss a putt.”
The highlight was his eight-iron ace from 180 yards at the par-three fourth, his first in the US after three in Japan and another in Puerto Rico.
“Solid strike. Landed five or six yards past the flag and back to sink in,” said Ishikawa. “That was kind of a special moment.”
Two-time US and British Open champion Ernie Els eagled the par-five 14th and fired six birdies to share third on 64 with Americans Justin Leonard and Kevin Chappell. Els fought off a severe back spasm for his low PGA round of the year.
Host Tiger Woods, the 14-time major winner who has struggled to make cuts this season, had bogeys on three of the first four holes but birdied the first four on the back nine in carding a 68.
“It was tough to turn it around, which I did,” Woods said. “I sucked it up and turned it around and posted a good number.”
England’s Justin Rose, the defending champion, closed with a bogey to shoot 66, saying, “When you miss a short one at the end it’s never fun to walk off the 18th. Five under is a good start.”
There were two holes-in-one on the day as Rickie Fowler aced the ninth from 184 yards with a seven iron. He was four adrift on 67 with Allenby.
Of the other Australians, Steven Bowditch (68) was next best, followed by Aaron Baddeley (69) and Cameron Percy (69) while John Senden is well back after a 74.