by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia
First tee nerves are nothing new to Jake McLeod, but working 12 months with a psychologist has pushed the young Queenslander to the forefront of the Australian wave.
Winner of the AV Jennings New South Wales Open and third at the Australian Open, McLeod made full use of idyllic morning conditions at RACV Royal Pines Resort to share the top position on the Australian PGA championship leaderboard with Western Australia's Matt Jager.
McLeod and Jager placed both rounds of 6-under 66 in the morning half of the draw with the Korean Jae-Woong Eom a shot back and Marc Leishman, Mathew Goggin and Adrian Otaegui from Spain shot back on 4-under.
Bound for sixth place at Fiji International and second at the Royal Cup during the Asian Tour, McLeod rose 12 months ago from 526 to 160th place on the Official World Ranking for Golf.
Leading the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, the rewards for another good week are significant, but the 24-year credits are mental approach as a way to overcome all the nerves that can penetrate.
"I'm always very nervous on the first tee," said McLeod, who made four birdies in his opening six holes.
"It was clear that I started quite nervous, but when I start this, it stops the nerves.
"I've seen a new psychologist six months to a year ago now and only the things we've worked on have been really good, so I think that certainly helped.
"I just accept how I am going to feel, as if I can not change my thoughts and all those things.
"I just have to stay really focused on the picture and laugh a bit and just stay relaxed.
"And I also start to feel more comfortable on the first tee.
"At the Aussie Open I felt very well out there, I think you forget that a bit, you're still nervous, but you forget, so it's pretty good."
A shot from the lead after the opening round of the Australian Open, Jager struggled to keep up with the weekend at The Lakes, but carried the lessons and confidence of that week in his opening round at Royal Pines.
"I learned a little about where my game was, but what I took away from that was how well I played the first nine every day with the wind and the water there," said Jager.
"The one behind nine is pretty daunting, but how I played those nine was very confident.
"I broke down the last hole of the tournament at 18 during the Aussie Open and that actually ended a good week for me.
"I felt good about it, learned from my small mistakes, and just come here and throw the dice and this has been a good start."
While Mcleod's round consisted of six birdies and no bogeys, Jager made two eagles in the space of four holes to make the turn on 4-under, by adding three birdies and a solitary bogey on the par. 4 8th to finish his round
Local favorite Cameron Smith was in the position to also appear prominently on the Round 1 leaderboard before bogeys on each of his last two holes saw him sign for a 2-under-70.
"Too bad to make a few mistakes on the last few holes there," Smith said after the circular.
"I had a bit of an unpredictable lie on 8 and I was not sure what it would look like because I played well, I was probably a bit more aggressive than I should have done, but that was something I was willing to risk. It just did not pay off completely.
"But the rest of the day was really good, I did very well, I did not really have the putter going today
"Greens are quite different this week and just struggled a bit with the pace.
"All in all, pretty good day."