Scott’s Stonehaven hopes go up in smoke
Adam Scott's bid to regain the Stonehaven Cup went up in smoke after the thick haze from the state's deadly bushfires blanketed the Australian Open.
What would normally have been a summer's stroll in the park for professional golfers, descended into a real health hazard as players complained of burning eyes, sore throats and problems breathing as they trudged around the Australian Golf Club.
"It's awful," said Matt Jones, who won the Australian Open at the same course in 2015.
"Your eyes do burn up. I've got that cough like you've got something in your lungs, phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but yeah it's not fun.
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"Even when I played in China I didn't think it was like this at all. Definitely not in Malaysia, it's just unbelievably humid, but no, I've never experienced anything like this. I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room."
Jones finished at 4-under-par, with an eagle on his ninth hole the highlight of his round, to end the day tied for third with Dimitrios Papadatos and Daniel Nisbet as the leading Australians.
Two amateurs, both from Asia, set the pace, with Japan's Takumi Kanaya and Taiwan's Chun-An Yu both shooting six-under 65s, while most of the big guns choked in the haze that is so bad authorities have told kids not to play sport and warned elderly people to stay indoors.
Pre-tournament favourite Scott is already in danger of missing the cut after carding a 75, which included his only birdie of the day on the final hole.
"I just was out of sorts out there. I lost my rhythm after the first hole. I thought I had two nice shots there and missed and then I really struggled on the front nine," he said.
"I hit some really bad drives that I left and didn't scramble. Not that I was really chipping either, I was coming in with full stuff for my thirds. I didn't play very good."
Scott admittedly played in the worst of the conditions, when the bushfire smoke was at its thickest, but didn't blame the weather though he said it was uncomfortable.
"I was joking that I need to cleanse, but it feels like I should shove a bit of salt water up my nose or something and try and rinse myself out," he said.
"Obviously not the conditions we want to be playing in. You kind of hope for rain.
"We can't do much. It's the same for everyone and we're out here playing, so you've got to get on with it."
Scott's Presidents Cup teammates Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman fared much better, with Smith finishing at 3-under and Leishman a shot back and happy enough with his day's work after taking a short break from tournament play.
"I played pretty good, hit some really good shots and hit some stinkers," he said. "But coming off a month off you probably expect that."
South African Louis Oosthuizen, another member of the Internationals team for the Presidents Cup, was one of the few players to complete the round with dropping a shot as he finished at 3-under, while the defending champion, Mexico's Abraham Ancer, was 1-over, along with Ernie Els. Spain's Sergio Garcia, playing in the same group as Scott, finished in the red at -1.
The world's No. 1 ranked amateur, Kanaya got off to a flyer with five birdies on the front nine and held the clubhouse until late in the afternoon when Yu joined him after reeling off an astonishing seven birdies in his last 12 holes.
"I played great out there," he said. "The air didn't smell really good, but I can get used to
it, so no big deal to me."
AUSTRALIAN OPEN SNIPPETS
Hoping to shoot two-under par on Friday would ordinarily be a rather modest goal.
But it would be quite a feat for Chad Pfeifer, who'd never hit a golf ball before having his left leg blown off in the Iraq war.
"There were definitely a few times when I got pretty depressed and wanted to commit suicide and it was golf that gave me something to look forward to," Pfeifer said.
"So it definitely saved my life."
Twelve years on from that life-changing day while serving in the US Army, Pfiefer is among 12 players teeing off in the second All Abilities Championship in Sydney.
The first amputee veteran to get a start on the web.com tour, the secondary tour in the US, Pfeifer plays off a plus-two handicap and once carded 10-under par around his home club in Idaho.
He and his rivals will hit off from the same tees as Adam Scott and co and don't want any favours from officials.
"Ultimately it will come down to putting," Pfeifer said.
"I think the big difference between us and the (able-bodied) tour players is they're used to putting on greens this quick."
PERFECT PREP TO KNOCK OFF TIGER
Marc Leishman is confident that playing the Australian Open is ideal preparation for International team members of the Presidents Cup despite the move being called in to question.
Six members of the 12-man International side, who will face a Tiger Woods-led American team next week, teed it up in Sydney. Captain Ernie Els and his assistants Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir and KJ Choi are the in Open field, too.
But Australian golf great Ian Baker-Finch has suggested the Internationals would be just as well served if they spent this week playing Cup host Royal Melbourne instead.
World No.27 Leishman wanted to be tested under the gun.
"The greens at The Australian are firm, but completely different level to Royal Melbourne," Leishman said after a solid 69 to sit at two-under-par.
"I played there on Monday (before coming to Sydney) and it's bouncing hard; some of the shots I hit today that finished close to the hole would have been 40 feet away at Royal Melbourne. It's that different.
"(Playing all week in Melbourne) would have been great preparation but I like to get into the tournament mode; hit shots under the pump.
"There's no right or wrong way to (prepare); I guess it's different strokes for different folks."