Australian PGA: Sim takes lead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Michael Sim shot a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian PGA.

Updated: December 07, 2007 12:30 IST
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Michael Sim shot a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over American JB Holmes and three others after the first round of the Australian PGA.

The 23-year-old Sim, whose rookie season on the U.S. PGA tour this year was delayed by a stress fracture in his back, was in the first group to tee off at 6:15 a.m. local time on Thursday.

Sim went out in 4-under 32 after making birdies on three of the last four holes of the front nine and a 4-meter (15-foot) putt for par on nine.

"It was a terrific round," said Sim, whose missed the cut in 2005 when he last played the Hyatt Regency resort course.

Holmes and Australians Craig Parry, Richard Green and Peter Lonard were tied for second after 66s. Adam Scott and David Smail shot 67, South African Rory Sabbatini was in a large group at 68 while defending champion Nick O'Hern shot 70.

Most of the leading players - Lonard and Sabbatini were the exceptions - had morning starts, when light cloud cover and a lack of wind made the course more conducive to low scoring.

Sim, who moved to Australia from Scotland when he was five, was hitting everything left on the practice range Wednesday before his coach, David Milne, made changes to his grip.

"The way I was hitting it on the range, I would have taken 7-under straight away," said Sim. "I was just pulling a little bit and my coach sort of changed my grip on my left hand."

Sim's first season on the U.S. PGA Tour was anything but smooth.

After getting his 2007 card in late 2006 via a top 25 finish on the Nationwide tour, he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his spine while preparing to play in last November's Australian Open.

He was forced to take nearly four months off, and didn't begin play this year until April, playing 17 PGA tournaments overall and earning just under US$400,000 (euro274,000).

He didn't pick up a club during his time off and continues to undergo rehabilitation and core stomach muscle conditioning.

Sim has a PGA medical extension for next year which gives him five tournaments to earn US$385,000.

The Australian must match the money earned this year by Mathias Gronberg, whose US$785,000 was 125th on the money list, the last position allowing a player to keep his card for 2008.

"Probably my first tournament will be Pebble Beach, virtually mid-February," Sim said. "When my time comes up, I've got to play well."

Parry, who played in Japan this year after a lengthy career on the PGA tour, said he putted well, but still missed three putts from under four feet.

"The greens were pretty hard today, not really holding, which is unusual for this course," said Parry. "I'd like the wind to pick up and knock a few guys out of contention."

One of the guys in contention - Holmes - was married last week.

His wife, Sara, followed him around the course Thursday. The big-hitting American only pulled out his driver three times, including on the par-five 15th, which he eagled.

"A cut driver down the bottom of the hill, 8-iron to about 15 feet, and ran it right over the edge for eagle," Holmes said.

He said it's not necessary for him to hit his driver frequently here.

"The course kind of puts everybody in the same spot," said Holmes. "It takes a bit of (my) advantage away, but I'll still go out and play well."

Another American, Ryan Moore, was in contention before taking a nine on the par-five 12th, going from 5-under on the day to 1-under.

Moore's tee shot went into heavy rough, forcing him to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie. But he hacked out twice more from the same area, missed the green with his sixth shot and two-putted for a quadruple bogey.

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