American Bobby Gates overcame an Australian wildlife experience to shoot an 8-under-par 64 and a share of the first-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship.
Gates, level with Australian Andrew Buckle and two strokes ahead of three others, birdied the 17th and 18th holes Thursday to pull him into a share of the lead. His birdie putt on 18 was from about 45 feet.
Earlier, Gates had to wait on the par-3 14th while course marshals attempted to scare away a kangaroo that was near the front of the tee. After the delay, Gates pulled his tee shot into the water and took bogey after hitting his shot from the drop zone to six feet and making the putt -- although he blamed shifting wind more than the misplaced marsupial.
“It was kind of fun to watch … pretty cool,” he said. “I think the wind was more a factor out there … it didn’t end up very well.
China’s Liang Wenchong, Steve Bowditch, who grew up a few miles from the course here, and 1983 Australian Open winner Peter Fowler were tied for third with 66s.
Geoff Ogilvy, who won last week’s Australian Open, shot 70, defending champion Robert Allenby 70 and American John Daly 71.
Adam Scott had a rough start, shooting a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 13th after beginning his round on the 10th. He put two balls in the water on the pond-lined hole and shot 40 on the back nine en route to a 73.
“I salvaged something out of a pretty ordinary 13th hole,” Scott said. “I hooked it in the water and then dropped it into a bad lie on a down slope, and then hit it fat into the water.”
With greens soft from recent rain and virtually no wind early, Buckle, who had a 6:20 a.m. start, shot 33 on the front nine and 31 on the more difficult back nine, including birdies on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 17th. His five-foot downhill birdie putt on 18 stopped on the lip of the cup.
The 28-year-old Buckle has struggled since playing for two years on the PGA Tour in 2007 and 2008. He finished 72nd this year on the Nationwide Tour money list and will return to the U.S. next year in an effort to get back to the main tour,
“It’s been tough,” Buckle said. “It’s still hard for me to get my head around the fact that I might be a decent golfer. Days like today will help.”
“When I got on the PGA Tour I was quite young and maybe I wasn’t quite ready for it. It was hard for me to get my head around a lot of things because I have never really thought I was that great a player, just loved playing golf.”
Things are far different for Gates, who won the New Zealand Open on the Nationwide tour this year and has graduated to the main PGA Tour for next season. He played in last week’s Australian Open, finishing in a tie for 12th, and had a good reason for coming Down Under for two late tournaments.
“Part of it was the fact that I was pretty high up on the Order of Merit (third place on the AustralAsian tour), part of it was going into my rookie year next year, and it seems like all of the Aussies are pretty well prepared for Hawaii and the West Coast,” Gates said.
“I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it is summer down here and they use these weeks to prepare and get ready for the 2011 season.”
Liang, who finished in a tie for eighth at this year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, said he likes the Coolum course.
“The fairway distance is not that long so there are more opportunities to shoot on to greens, and to get into a better position,” Liang said through a translator.