x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Popovic leads way at Australian PGA as illness claims Norman

Daniel Popovic topped the leaderboard at the Palmer Coolum Resort with an eight-under 64, while Peter Senior kept alive his hopes of a 'double-double'.

Daniel Popovic avoids an unlikely obstruction on the 9th green at the Australian PGA.
Daniel Popovic avoids an unlikely obstruction on the 9th green at the Australian PGA.

Daniel Popovic fired a superb eight-under round of 64 to lead the Australian PGA by two shots after the first round today.

The Australian, teeing off at the 10th, birdied his first four holes, bogeyed the sixth then strung together five consecutive birdies on the par-72 Palmer Coolum Resort course to top the leaderboard at the OneAsia co-sanctioned $1.25m (Dh4.6m) tournament.

He leads compatriot Scott Strange by two shots, with former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy a shot further back on five under, alongside China's Zhang Xin Jun and Singapore's Choo Tze-Huang.

Popovic, 26, won the Australian qualifying school late last year but took time off from golf after his father became seriously ill with cancer.

However, his father urged him to return to the sport and he tuned up for the PGA with a practice round alongside Ogilvy.

"That was some of the best golf that I have ever played in my life," Popovic said.

"There were times that I was even surprising myself at how confident I was with the way I was hitting it."

Peter Senior, who became the oldest Australian Open champion at The Lakes last week, kept alive his hopes of an historic "double-double" of winning the Open and PGA in the same year on two occasions with a four-under 68.

The 53-year-old has won at Coolum twice previously, and made five birdies and one bogey to be four shots off the pace.

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland was in joint 19th place after opening with a two-under in a round of four birdies and two bogeys.

South Africa's Rory Sabbatini, a six-time winner on the US PGA Tour, floundered with a four-over 76 to lie in joint 108th place.

But illness forced former world number one Greg Norman to pull out of the competition after just two holes.

The 57-year-old hit two bogeys before pulling out with suspected food poisoning.

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