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Daniel Popovic leads Australian PGA Championship after opening round 64

Updated: Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 15:49 | Comments

Matthew Stieger lines up a putt trying not to notice the giant model T-Rex dinosaur at the Palmer Coolum Resort
Matthew Stieger lines up a putt trying not to notice the giant model T-Rex dinosaur at the Palmer Coolum Resort

Daniel Popovic posted a superb eight-under 64 to lead the Australian PGA Championship by two shots after a dramatic opening day that saw Greg Norman withdraw due to food poisoning.

Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school, scorched around the Palmer Coolum Resort layout in sunny but windy afternoon conditions.

The 26-year-old birdied his first four holes and bounced back from his only bogey of the day at the par-five 15th with five straight birdies from the 17th hole.

Korean Han Min-kyu's course record of 62 looked under real threat but Victorian Popovic parred his remaining six holes to finish at minus eight.

Darren Clarke signed for an opening-round 70 to sit six shots off the lead in a tie for 19th place.

"That was some of the best golf that I've played in my life," Popovic said.

"There were times there where I even surprised myself of how confident I was with the way that I was hitting it."

Scott Strange leads the chasing pack after shooting a six-under 66 in the morning, one clear of Geoff Ogilvy, who was the next best of the afternoon players.

"That was some of the best golf that I've played in my life" - Daniel Popovic

The 2006 US Open champion's opening round featured two eagles - at the par-five 5th and par-five 12th - to share third spot with China's Xin Jun Zhang and Singapore's Tze-huang Choo.

"I felt like I got away with it a bit, I mean the two eagles I had were a really long putt from off the green and a chip in," said Ogilvy.

Australian Open winner Peter Senior also made a bright start, carding a four-under 68 to sit in a four-way share of sixth.

Defending champion Greg Chalmers began his defence with an even-par 72 while South African Rory Sabbatini struggled to a four-over 76 on day one.

Norman was forced to withdraw after just two holes due to illness.

After starting his round at the 10th hole at 0700 local time, Norman battled to consecutive bogeys before shaking hands with playing partners Stuart Appleby and Jake Higginbottom on the 11th green.

"Greg Norman has been diagnosed with food poisoning and has been attended to at Mt Coolum Medical Centre, who spent the morning with him and treated Greg's symptoms with appropriate medication," PGA of Australia CEO Brian Thorburn said.

"While we're obviously disappointed for the fans who love to see Greg play in Australia, we wish Greg a speedy recovery."

Meanwhile, Queenslander Marcus Cain produced the shot of the day after a spectacular hole-in-one at the par-three 2nd, on the way to an opening 72.

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