SOUTH AUSTRALIAN Nick Cullen leads the 2013 Talisker Australian Masters after a cracking 6-under 65 at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
The 25 year old leads defending champion Adam Scott and Germany’s Maximillian Kieffer by two strokes after a chilly Melbourne day highlighted by the heart-warming return to competitive golf of Jarrod Lyle.
Cullen, who won the Queensland Open in August, eagled the par four 11th and managed six birdies on the difficult Royal Melbourne composite course.
“I hit it really well and putted pretty solid. I pitched in on the 11th which always helps,” said Cullen who achieved the feat from 59 metres with a 60 degree wedge.
“If you want to play the big events and you want to play with the best players, there is always going to be a bit of pressure. It is exactly where I want to be and hopefully I will be there again tomorrow and around the mark on Sunday.”
Scott hasn’t hit many balls since winning at Royal Pines on the weekend and was pleased with his opening round.
“I have not done much practice since last week so I felt I would try and sneak a few balls in before lunch and a 67 round here is a good score,” said Scott.
“It was a bit of a slow finish but it is a good way to open up. I felt like I left a couple out there but my game was in pretty good shape other than that and four rounds like that might go a long way this week.”
Jarrod Lyle’s emotional comeback
Lyle was overcome with emotion on the first tee in his comeback game after 20 months battling cancer.
“It was nice to get out there and see everybody that I love standing around the tee and even people I have never met before. The crowd on the first tee was something I was not expecting,” said Lyle.
“I hit that first tee shot with tears all through my eyes. I was happy when I saw it going in the air down the fairway.”
Finishing on 1-over, his aim was just to make the weekend rounds.
“My dream is to come here and make the cut,” Lyle said. “I want to stand up on Sunday afternoon, walk off the 18th green and go, I have played four days. How bloody good is that?”
A group of eight players shared the third rung of the leaderboard on 3-under 68, , including Anthony Brown, Stephen Leaney, Peter O’Malley, Brett Rankin, Nathan Holman, New Zealander Ryan Fox and Zimbabwean Brendon De Jonge.
Round two tees off Friday with Cullen scheduled for 6.50am and Scott on course at 12.20pm.