Hend and Clark dodge storms to claim lead

Scott Hend and Tim Clark claimed the clubhouse lead at the 2008 Australian Masters after a violent electrical storm swept across Huntingdale, delaying play for almost three hours.

Scott Hend and Tim Clark claimed the clubhouse lead at the 2008 Australian Masters after a violent electrical storm swept across Huntingdale, delaying play for almost three hours.

Hailstones, lightning and a succession of heavy showers pummelled the course not long after play was formally suspended at 4.04pm local time.

The weather cleared in time, however, to squeeze in about 90 minutes’ play from 7pm.

The break was a blessing for South African Clark who picked up two strokes when he returned to complete his final four holes in conditions far more benign than when play was postponed.

“Obviously the wind was a lot calmer and from a different direction and the greens had softened up so it was a totally different course,” Clark said.

“It was tough this morning with the wind but I was happy with how I was playing this morning, too, so overall, I’ll take that score.”

The highlight of Clark’s earlier exploits was a pair of eagles at the 490-metre par-five seventh and the 453-metre par-five 10th, both of which were playing downwind and ripe for the picking.

“I had two eagles all year on the US Tour so that was quite a shock for me, but downwind they were reachable and ... that was where you had to make your score up on a day like this,” he said.

Tournament favourite, Robert Allenby, who’s aiming to repeat his achievements of 2005 by clean-sweeping the Masters, PGA and Australian Open in successive weeks, found the afternoon going tough.

The champion at Huntingdale in 2003 and 2005 finished at one over par.

A total of 48 players will need to complete their unfinished first rounds on Friday morning, not that that is of any great concern to Florida-based Queenslander Hend who signed-in at lunchtime for a five-under 67.

He and Clark lead by two shots from Australians Anthony Brown and Michael Wright and England’s Daniel Wardrop who completed rounds of 69.

Australian Chris Downes was at three-under after 12 holes when darkness forced play to be finally called off.

Out on the course early, Hend made light of a hot, swirling north wind for his 67 which left him well clear of more fancied rivals such as Stuart Appleby (74), John Daly (76) and three-time Masters champion Craig Parry (76), all of whom also completed morning rounds.

Returning gradually to full fitness after straining elbow ligaments lifting boxes of tiles at home in Ponte Vedra in August, Hend said a positive mindset and solid game plan served him well on Thursday.

“I’m never surprised when I play good, I’m disappointed when I play bad,” he said. “Self-belief and confidence, that’s all it is with a golfer.

“Most of us can hit it pretty much the same – good quality, good putters – but self-belief and confidence is where it all is.”

The 35-year-old, whose best result at Huntingdale is a tie for seventh in 2001, described the greens as a pleasure to putt on and said his general game plan worked well.

Six birdies and just the one blemish, a bogey at the par-four fourth, represented a satisfying day’s work.

“My target was to be as aggressive as possible downwind, and then just try and make a par into the wind,” Hend said.

“It was just aggressive then defensive, back and forward.”

Daly said he focused on survival in the torrid conditions and kept his major weapon, his driver, under wraps for much of the round.

By his own admission, the two-time major winner, who finished bogey-bogey, never came to terms with the wind.

“It was blowing from the get-go,” Daly said.

“This was just a day when I ’supposed’ on so many shots instead of knowing.”

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