Veteran Aussie leads Johnnie Walker Classic

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The Independent Online

Veteran Australian golfer Wayne Smith hit eight birdies to take the lead in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic with a seven-under- par 65 at the Alpine Golf and Sports Club Bangkok.

Veteran Australian golfer Wayne Smith hit eight birdies to take the lead in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic with a seven-under- par 65 at the Alpine Golf and Sports Club Bangkok.

Smith, 39, finished a stroke ahead of compatriot Paul Gow while Scotland's Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, was in the third position with a 67.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods fired a 68 for the fourth position, while Spain's Sergio Garcia returned a disappointing 74 that included a quadruple-bogey eight.

During his 16-year professional career Smith has won twice on both the Australasian and Japanese Tours but he would not have had many better rounds than Thursday's performance.

He hit a triple birdie on the last three holes of the first nine, then took the turn and fired five more on the second.

He missed the fairway on the No. 7, chipped it back, hit a six-iron to the left fringe and chipped in from five yards. That, he claimed, was his most difficult hole.

"My goal was to hit a lot of pars at the start of the round and take the stress away from needing to get up and down from the rough," he said.

Woods, winner of this event in 1998, tucked in behind the leaders following a round made up of six birdies and two bogies. Both dropped shots came on the front side before he powered through the inward half in three-under-par 33 with birdies on 12, 14 and 17.

"It could have been a little lower. I went out there to try and hit fairways and greens and I gave myself a couple of good chances there that I missed," said Woods, who three putted the 555-yard par-five fifth after reaching the green in two.

"It was a solid start, score wise, but I didn't really feel like I was playing that great," he added.

Gow, who enjoyed an outing of six-under-par 66 for his second place among those who teed off early, got off to a slow start. He suffered a bogey at the second but birdied the fourth and fifth holes. And that, he said, got him going.

"On the back nine I played really well with four straight birdies from the 11th hole," he said.

He holed putts from six, two and eight feet and had a two-putt birdie at the par five.

Gow, who qualified for the 2001 U.S. PGA tour, said: "The best player in the world is in the field and I will see this week if I can compete against him. There is no pressure on me. I always play as hard as I can and make as many birdies as possible."

Scotland's Lawrie, who enjoyed an excellent first nine with four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 17th, having teed off from the tenth, made two bogeys and a birdie, home bound.

Garcia was in the hunt early on after going two under after five, but he went in the water twice. He found water on the seventh, where he double bogied, and then again on the par four 11th, where he had an eight.

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