Queensland’s Rod Pampling is at the pointy end of a Champions Tour leaderboard for the third time in a month after a stellar opening round of 6-under 64 at the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club in South Dakota.
Buoyed by his win at the Boeing Classic last month, Pampling was in contention at last week’s Ascension Charity Classic before a disappointing final round saw him tumble down the leaderboard on Sunday.
But rather than dwell on that missed opportunity Pampling has put himself right in the mix once again, using a run of four consecutive birdies after the turn to sit one behind Korea’s KJ Choi (63) and level with Robert Karlsson, Matt Gogel, Brandt Jobe and Darren Clarke.
Pampling would have had a share of top spot if not for a bogey on his final hole but says his strong form and boost in confidence is proving to be an effective combination.
“The confidence you get from that is huge, it’s immeasurable,” Pampling said of his maiden Champions Tour win, the first on tour by an Aussie in 18 years.
“To be out here now, that’s the monkey off your back so you just go out and play.
“As long as you get that chance on Sunday, that’s the key.”
Birdies at the fourth and eighth holes saw Pampling make the turn in 2-under at which point he charged up the leaderboard.
A superb tee shot set up birdie at the par-3 10th, he added a second at the par-4 11th, two-putted for birdie at the par-5 12th and made a fourth in succession from the fringe at the par-4 13th.
“The one off the green on 13 was kind of nice, it was maybe a 15-footer, but it was obviously a good stretch,” said Pampling.
“I’ve been playing nicely and hit it nice coming in, just that one on the last really took off out of the rough a lot further than we expected.
“Sometimes it happens but on the whole it’s a good day.”
It was a good day also for fellow Australian Mark Hensby who in his Champions Tour debut has a share of seventh after an opening round of 5-under 65 that featured six birdies and a lone bogey.
Hensby is level with Kiwi Steven Alker (65) with John Senden (67) two shots further back in a tie for 18th at 3-under.
Two bogeys late in his round saw Victorian David McKenzie post 2-under 68 on day one, Stephen Leaney’s round of 1-under 69 highlighted by an eagle three at the par-5 12th.
Robert Allenby managed to generate some momentum late in his round, picking up birdies at the 16th and 17th holes to finish the day at 2-over 72.