Higginbottom in full swing

IMPRESSIVE: Jake Higginbottom in action yesterday at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath.  Picture: Sebastian Costanzo

AN unusually quiet five months for Charlestown amateur Jake Higginbottom ended yesterday when the 19-year-old made a big impression in the opening round of the Australian Masters.

Higginbottom shot four-under 68 at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath to take full advantage of his invitation to be equal fourth and the top amateur.

Brisbane’s Matthew Guyatt (65) is leading the international field  that includes British Open runner-up Adam Scott (67), 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell  and former world No.5 Ian Poulter.

‘‘It was good atmosphere especially with Poulter and McDowell on the course,’’ Higginbottom said. 

‘‘It was also good playing with Andre Stolz as I know him a bit, so he helped me settle down.’’

Higginbottom birdied the fourth and seventh before carding his sole bogey on the par-five ninth hole.

Three successive birdies from the 14th then shot the Australian No.3 amateur up the leaderboard.

‘‘I played good but it wasn’t super-duper, it was just solid,’’ he said.  ‘‘It’s a course where you’ve got to manage yourself around and I did that good today. I hit it into good spots and left myself with easy chip shots.’’

Last year at the Australian Open Higginbottom carded four-under 68 at The Lakes on the opening day to be tied at eighth, but finished 44th on 290, two over par. 

Earlier this year Higginbottom rose to ninth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, but he has dropped to 24th.

In June he failed to make the cut of the British Amateur at Royal Troon and Glasgow Gailes Links. 

Further disappointment followed at the US Amateur in August at Cherry Hills Country Club,  Colorado.

‘‘I’ve definitely been working hard,’’ he said. 

‘‘I don’t think I was down in confidence, I was just disappointed in myself. 

‘‘I’ve been trying to work hard and get back to where I should be.’’

Initial frustrations with the putter kept Scott to even par on his first nine holes, before a run of four straight birdies, including one from a huge putt on the par-four second (Scott’s 11th) energised him.

While Scott felt  nine or 10-under might have been possible in the benign conditions, he was happy enough.

‘‘I’m on my way,’’ he said.

Poulter, surprised to find such conducive scoring conditions in the afternoon, knew nothing of Guyatt but refused to look ahead to a potential weekend showdown with Scott.

 ‘‘It’s Thursday. There’s 120 players, not two,’’ he said. 

Of other big names, 2010 champion Stuart Appleby dropped three shots in his last two holes to finish one under, a score shared by  McDowell, while two-time champion Robert Allenby shot even par. with AAP

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