ROUND 1 | Eccles, Fraser lead Gippsland Super 6 despite stumbles


They dropped three shots between them on their final hole but Victorian pair Ben Eccles and Marcus Fraser share the lead midway through the opening round of the Gippsland Super 6 at Yallourn Golf Club.

The first ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia event since the NT PGA Championship in October, a stellar list of Australian golfers flooded the leaderboard in the morning wave but it seemed no one would keep pace with Eccles until disaster struck late.

Six birdies and an eagle had given Eccles a handy two-shot buffer from Fraser and Peter Wilson until a double-bogey six on the par-4 ninth gave lunch a bitter taste.

Starting from the 10th tee, Eccles made the turn in 2-under and then caught fire, rattling off three birdies in succession from the par-5 first and establishing a two-shot gap to the rest of the field with an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole.

He looked certain to set an imposing target for the afternoon groups until a wayward tee shot and lost ball turned a two-shot advantage into a share of the lead at 5-under 67.

“I hit one really bad shot for the day and it was on that tee box. The rest of the day was really good,” said Eccles, who gained his Asian Tour card at the start of 2020.

“I snap-hooked a driver into the rubbish on the left and made a par with the second ball.

“I didn’t hit many really close today, I holed some putts that I didn’t expect to hole and I built on it.

“Then I got to the fifth and hit two really, really nice shots into there and made the eagle and I was 7-under and thinking, This is really nice.

“I hit 2-iron off the tee up the hill which left me 212 metres to the flag and I hit 4-iron to 6-8 feet. That was probably the best shot I hit all day. That was really nice that one.”

Fraser too found trouble on the 328-metre ninth hole when he was unable to find his first tee shot but made birdie with his second ball to also open with a 67.

“I thought was perfect when I hit it and then got up there and couldn’t find it,” Fraser said of his final hole misfortune.

“I hit another one that was about two yards to the right of the first one and it was in the first cut of rough, hit it on and made the putt.

“I don’t know what happened to the first one but it was gone.”

Having recently begun the PGA Bridging program at Peninsula Kingswood Golf Club, Fraser’s preparation has consisted predominantly of helping to improve the games of others rather than sharpening his own.

“It was a bit of the unknown really,” Fraser said of his return to tournament golf.

“I played the pro-ams last week to try and have a hit-out before playing some four-rounders but before that I hadn’t really done a hell of a lot.

“There hasn’t been too much of my golf, I’ve been teaching some other people how to do it.

“I chipped in for eagle at the fifth but apart from that it was all pretty steady.”

Peter Wilson is tied for fourth at 4-under thanks in no small part to an eagle on his very first hole while defending champion Tom Power Horan is one of 11 players currently in a tie for seventh at 3-under par, left to lament some untidy bogeys and missed opportunities in his round of 69 that featured seven birdies, four bogeys and seven pars.

“I made some poor bogeys. I played quite well the front nine and then a couple of soft bogeys,” Power Horan explained.

“I feel like I should have been a few better to be honest but I’ll take it.

“It’s nice to play well because it gives you confidence but to be honest it’s a little bit annoying. If it was two shots better it makes the next two rounds a little bit easier.

“I don’t think I quite capitalised on how well I played.”

The inaugural event in 2019 was heavily disrupted by rain and Power Horan says they have been presented with a much different test this time around in warm conditions.

“It’s much, much firmer and the wind direction is the total opposite,” said Power Horan, who won in 54 holes of stroke play in November 2019.

“Some of the holes that were the tougher ones last time are probably the easier holes and vice versa.

“It makes it a good challenge but it’s definitely there to be had. It wouldn’t surprise me to see someone shoot a really good score.

“If you drive the ball well there’s plenty of opportunities.”

The early leaders are already under fire from the afternoon groups with newly minted Sydney professional Nathan Barbieri racing to 5-under through his opening six holes with fellow Sydneysider Dimi Papadatos also quick out of the blocks, 4-under through 5.

Follow live scores from the Gippsland Super 6 at pga.org.au.


Headlines at a glance