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Globetrotting Queenslander Andrew Dodt enjoys the occasional Bundaberg Rum and Coke after a round to unwind and settle the nerves.
And he plans on sampling the local rum in Fiji this week with wild and windy conditions expected to further batter the field at the Fiji International at the seaside Natadola Bay Championship course.
Dodt, 2014 Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen, West Australian Jarryd Felton and Kiwi Ben Campbell are locked in a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after Thursday’s first round after shooting five-under 67s.
Dodt, Cullen and Felton played in the morning but Campbell — the New Zealand PGA winner this year who hails from the same town as Kiwi golf icon Sir Bob Charles — made his charge as the wind intensified in the afternoon to make scoring more difficult and force spectators to hang onto their hats.
Dodt, 32, has won co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour events in India and Thailand, as well as the 2014 Queensland Open.
He had the 2016 Australian PGA title in his grasp until a sizzling seven-under 65 from winner Harold Varner III denied him the Joe Kirkwood Cup.
Dodt — who primarily plays on the European circuit — went bogey-free to spark hope of turning around his indifferent 2018 campaign.
“I heard the Fiji rum’s pretty good, I’ll give that a crack,’’ he laughed after holding his nerve on the last three holes with long par-saving putts.
“That was not easy. It was very tough, very windy, you had to control your ball. Course
management was a big factor. It was a really, really solid round.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I did today and keep building on that.’’
Cullen — who finished tied for third in Fiji in 2015 — had six birdies and just the one blemish on the tough 16th hole. He said Dodt could be the player to beat this week.
“He’s such a great player. I’m really jealous of his tempo, he’s just got the most beautiful tempo and his swing is so solid,’’ Cullen said.
“He’s definitely the guy to watch this week and everyone will be chasing him down, I think.
Tournament drawcard Ernie Els had an even-par 72 and, while he lamented some missed short putts, the four-time major winner praised the leaders for going so low in the conditions.
“(That’s a) really good round. That’s wonderful golf … (they’re) obviously in control of a whole lot of things out there,’’ Els said. “I was thinking to shoot anything around par this morning, the way it was blowing, it was going to be okay.
“I missed the short little putts, which probably blemished my card a little bit. I’m not out of it, but I’ve got to start stepping on it a bit, going forward.’’
Fellow drawcard Vijay Singh played in the afternoon and had a forgettable four-over 76.
Tournament favourite Scott Hend played alongside Singh and carded a five-over 77.
Defending champion Jason Norris battled manfully late in the day to finish even with the card.
On a day when the health battle of inspirational Australian pro Jarrod Lyle was still on the minds of the players, a greenside sign read: “Today we are playing for you Jarrod”.
Players also wore the “Luek the Duck” pins from the Challenge Cancer charity championed by Lyle.
SOURCE: COURIER MAIL/PACNEWS
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