A pair of Australian left-handers, Nick O’Hern and Richard Green, were right on track at rain-soaked Wentworth Club to fill the top positions in the first round of the Volvo PGA Championship. O'Hern, playing in the first group of the day, fired a seven under par 65 to lead by two strokes from Green and Sweden's Robert Karlsson before play was abandoned for the day at 5.50pm after a suspension of three hours and five minutes. Play recommences at 7.20am with the second round beginning at 9.30am.
O’Hern, who had to rise from his slumber at 4.45am to make his 7am tee time, reached the turn in 33, two-under par. An eight-iron approach to one foot at the 11th started a great back nine. O’Hern carded four birdies in the remaining seven holes - with a birdie, birdie finish for an inward nine of 32.
“That’s about as good as I can play around here,” said the 29 year-old, who had just played his first competitive round at Wentworth Club. “This round has been in the pipeline for three or four weeks”.
O’Hern, born in Perth, is a natural right-hander who plays the game left handed. Swinging right-handed he can play to around a 20 handicap. He says: “I’m a bit cock-eye, I guess. Everything with one hand I’m right handed, everything with two hands I’m left handed. I get it off my mum.”
Green, 29, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic in 1997 and the first left hander since 1974 to win on the European Tour, then recorded a blemish-free 67, five under par, to move into a share of second place.
Like O'Hern, he plays two-handed sports left handed but writes right handed. He admitted that his own expectations had increased since he won in Dubai. He said: "I beat Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam in a play-off, and when you do that you expect to do it the following week. That's not easy.
"I've been bursting my neck for the past three years to get back to this level. After achieving my goal of winning, I think I felt a little bit lost. I've never lost my competitive spirit."
Karlsson moved within two strokes of the leader with a 67. His excellent score in the deteriorating conditions included six threes. Birdies at the fifth, seventh and eighth were followed by further birdies at the 12th and 17th.
Playing in the group in front of Karlssson was Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who shot a steady opening 69. “I missed from three feet at the first but holed some good ones after that,” said Lawrie. “It was harder towards the end as it was raining heavily and the ball doesn’t go so far. I played really well though and I’m pleased with my start”.
England’s Stuart Little sustained the remarkable performances by the 'lefties' in the championship when he opened with a fine 68. After a bogey at the first he made a good recovery, with four birdies in the next eight holes, to reach the turn in 32. His back nine of 36 consisted of birdies at the tenth and 14th holes. The only blip of his round being a bogey five at the recently lengthened par 4 15th.
After his victory in last week’s Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe Lee Westwood opened with a one-under par 71. Westwood, who played sublime golf to win in Hamburg, insisted that this time he was "awful" but had escaped with a damage-limitation effort.