by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia
American Harold Varner III has chosen a second Joe Kirkwood Cup as the target to drive him to a first PGA Tour title after he once again made a great start for the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
The 2016 champion, Varner has not ended worse than sixth in three previous tilts on one of the most prestigious trophies of Australian golf and is positioned to fight again after an opening round of 3-under 69.
Jake McLeod and Matt Jager used perfect morning conditions to win a top position on the leaderboard at 6-under by the first round with the Australian Open second Dimitrios Papadatos the best of the afternoon groups at 5-time intervals, equal with Korea & # 39 ; s Jae -woong Eom.
Through 17 holes Varner got a shared fifth place with a 4-sub par, after which he took his second shot in 18 on the left of the green and did not go up and down but was given the chance to put pressure on the leaders if he dropped out early Friday morning .
In his last 10 laps at Royal Pines, Varner has performed six times better than 70 and hopes to use a second Australian PGA title to further improve his position on the PGA Tour.
In the top 25 in four of his last five starts on his homeward trip, the 28-year-old said he hoped to use another good week on the Gold Coast as a springboard to 2019.
"I've been playing well for the past few weeks and just try to stick to it and keep doing my thing", Varner said.
"I just did not get the momentum of his victory (his victory in 2016), who sucked in.
"Hopefully we can win a new one and use that momentum to encourage me to play much better.
"The boys in the United States give me the honor to win here, but of course it means a lot when it's your homeward and you want to win there."
Entangled in the drama around Aussie John Senden's broken club on the ninth tee, Varner raised the fans in the Volkswagen Marquee on the par-3 16th and enjoyed the atmosphere created, including the resident DJ.
"I've heard the song they played before and I mumbled it a bit as I read my putt, so it's pretty impressive," said Varner.
"It's a pretty cool environment and that's how you let the game grow, I think.
"I like it when it's much louder, I do not like it when only one person is in motion, so that was pretty cool, that was great."
For Papadatos, a victory this week would erase the painful memories he missed on his European Tour card this year.
Victory in the European Tour co-sanctioned event brings immediate status with the claim that the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour or Australasia Order of Merit will also be a ticket for 12 months for one of the world's richest tours for the winner of the Australian Open.
Holing out for the eagle on the par-4 17th gave the New South Welshman momentum when he made the turn with four more birdies on the front nine so he landed in the second round in a shot.
"I think I was 1 and that brought me under 1," said Papadatos about his eagle on 17.
"The front nine that I think with the wind today was certainly a bit easier than the back, the back is a pretty good test, especially the way the wind went, so it was nice to come home.
"If you play well, you want to make the most of it, if you play badly, you try to turn it around.
"You are never really relaxed, but it is more fun to play at home."
Western Australian Jason Scrivener seemed destined to join McLeod and Jager at the end of the day, until bogeys had erased an otherwise impeccable round of 4-under 68 on his last two holes.
"I'm happy with the way I played, unfortunately unfortunately with those two bogeys, but otherwise it was pretty clear," said Scrivener who is in fifth place with Marc Leishman, Adrian Otaegui from Spain, Mathew Goggin and Queensland & # 39 ; s Doug Klein.
"The game feels like it has ended in the last two months, and it feels like I'm becoming more consistent.
"I just want to give myself opportunities to win tournaments, so we'll see how we're going to do in the coming days."