With the Order of Merit already won, David Micheluzzi does not need to be at The National Tournament presented by BMW this week, but he is tuning up for The 151st Open and he’s doing it in style.
Micheluzzi’s bogey free six-under opening round 66 in Thursday’s icy gusts of wind coming from Bass Strait leads the season-ending tournament on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula by one shot from Scott Arnold and Michael Wright.
Controlling the ball in blustery conditions will be essential in his major championship debut at the oldest of all English seaside courses, Royal Liverpool, in July and that opportunity – which he earned for winning the Order of Merit – is driving Micheluzzi to chase a fourth victory of the season.
“The Open (is inspiring me). I think this is a perfect chance to play in some wind and on a type of links course,” he said.
“I think I may have a couple of events before that, so I want to keep as sharp as possible. And why not? It’s 40 minutes from my house and it’s always good down here.”
The NSW Open, TPS Sydney and WA PGA Championship winner calls Kingswood Peninsula Country Golf Club in Melbourne’s southeast home but has played plenty of golf during both his amateur and professional days on the Mornington Peninsula and knows The National well.
Ironically the Moonah Course, designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison, was quite foreign to the 26-year-old until recent times.
“I’ve played heaps on the other two but not on the Moonah. I played the Moonah maybe five or six years ago and the second time I played it was last Wednesday,” Micheluzzi recalled.
“I love it. It’s so good. It’s probably one of the best courses down here.”
Micheluzzi’s six birdies helped grow his love affair with this week’s host course and as has become commonplace throughout this season, his first round featured more highlights around the greens.
“I had a chip-in on the back of eight. I hit it just long and had quite a tough chip shot, it was back into the grain, hit a good chip and it went it,” he said.
“I birdied three of the par 5s and made a good birdie on three. I hit a good iron shot. Other than that, it was fairways and greens and didn’t do anything too silly.”
New South Welshman Arnold followed a similar script in his bogey free round of 67 as he also birdied three of the four par 5s.
The 37-year-old came top 30 at the NSW Open two weeks ago and is looking to finish his season on a positive note with a strong showing this week.
Wright was also bogey free and he too birdied three of the par 5s as he pushed through the regular afternoon downpours.
The similarities extend to the season as a whole with the Queenslander also enduring an up-and-down season highlighted by top 10 finishes at TPS Victoria and the Queensland PGA Championship.
Sharing fourth place are Victorians Tom Power Horan, Terry Pilkadaris and James Marchesani, and West Australian Scott Strange with rounds of 68.
Power Horan once again showed off the consistency that has led him to already lock up a top three spot in the Order of Merit, and a subsequent DP World Tour card, with a bogey free round.
Strange, who came top 10 at TPS Murray River, on the other hand produced a rollercoaster front nine 33 that included a six-hole stretch from holes four to nine that contained four birdies and two bogeys.
Marchesani started with a bang with a birdie at the first and an eagle at the par 5 second before staying steady for most of the round with another two birdies and a sole bogey.