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Bright start for McDowell and team-mate Conners as Aussie duo lead in Florida

McDowell and Conners are just one shot off the lead at the QBE Shootout.

Graeme McDowell (file pic).
Graeme McDowell (file pic).
Image: Ken Murray

GRAEME MCDOWELL AND his Canadian team-mate Corey Conners are just one shot off the lead after the first round of the QBE Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

Australians Marc Leishman and Jason Day combined to shoot a 16-under par 56 to take a one-shot lead. The pair had two eagles and 12 birdies as they thrived in the first-round scramble format — where both teammates tee off then both play from the better-positioned ball, continuing the process until the hole is completed.

“I think we combined really well,” Leishman said. “I drove it reasonably well most of the day, but when I was off the fairway Jase hit good tee shots, and I was putting first after the first hole and when I missed, he made … we combined well.

“We get along very well and it was just nice to get off to a good start in this sort of event.”

Leishman holed a chip for eagle on the sixth and holed out again at the par-four 10th, where his wedge took a couple of hops and rolled into the cup.

“It feels good,” Leishman said. “The one on six, I had a pretty good read off Jase. It was a very straight forward chip, but obviously it still takes a little bit of luck for it to actually go in the hole.”

The Aussies raced home with six birdies from the 13th through the 18th and held a one-shot lead over two teams: McDowell and Conners, and defending champions Matt Kuchar and Harris English.

Harris and English, seeking a fourth win in seven years in the unofficial event hosted by Greg Norman, had 15 birdies while McDowell and Conners combined for 13 birdies and an eagle at the 17th.

Two teams shared fourth on 13-under, Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak and Bubba Watson and LPGA star Lexi Thompson.

Watson tried to drive the green at the par-four 13th. His ball hit a seated spectator and bounced back toward the pin nearly giving them a hole-in-one.

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Watson said he would “never” have hit that shot off the tee in a regular tournament, but in the scramble, with Thompson already in the fairway, thought he’d go for it.

On Saturday, the format switches to modified alternate shot, while the final round on Sunday will be four-ball, with each player playing his or her own ball and the best score counting.

© – AFP, 2021

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