Newcastle golfer Andrew Dodt leads Australian PGA Championship I photos

Newcastle golfer Andrew Dodt says the pressure of playing for his European Tour card contributed to his tournament-leading round on day one at the Australian PGA Championship.

The former Queenslander shot a seven-under-par 65 at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast to lead the $1.5 million co-sanctioned tournament by two strokes when a storm stopped play mid-afternoon.

The PGA Championship is the first event on the 2017 European Tour and last on the 2016 Australasian tour.

Dodt, 30, won the co-sanctioned Thailand Classic early last year to secure his European card until the end of 2017. With that safety net, he made just seven of 21 cuts in Europe this season, but he could sense a shift in his attitude on Thursday.

“I wanted to hit the ground running for 2017. I was pretty conscious of being ready for that from hole one, shot one,” he told the Newcastle Herald.

“I seem to operate best when it’s on the line.

“Maybe I did or maybe I didn’t sit back and relax this year. When it counts this year I’m excited that I’ve got to go out and put it on the line.”

Dodt, who teed off on the 10th, made three birdies and a bogey on his front nine before firing five birdies on the run home. He said it was “nice to be seven under” after he and his caddie had set 10 under as a victory target for the tournament.

“I’m going to sit on the balcony and have a few rum and cokes,” Dodt said in a post-round media conference.

Even par was good enough to win the tournament at Royal Pines last year, when Australian Nathan Holman beat South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli and American Harold Varner III in a play-off.

Dodt grew up in Gatton, west of Brisbane, but had not played Royal Pines until a practice round on Monday.

However, the course will not be the only unfamiliar territory he will have to negotiate on Friday. 

“I led a tournament in about May in Mauritius for the first 2½, three rounds, but I haven’t had too much experience at it,” Dodt said.

“A couple of my wins have been come-from-behind. It’s probably a little bit new territory, but it’s all part of playing tournaments. You have to embrace it.”

Varner III was two behind Dodt after completing 15 holes of his round, level with fellow American Julian Suri and Kiwi Ryan Fox. World No.7 Adam Scott was in a group of six at four under.

The five other Hunter golfers at Royal Pines teed off in the afternoon and did not complete their rounds.

Jamie Hook was even par after eight holes, Ed Stedman two over after eight, Kurt Barnes three over after 17, James Nitties three over after 10 and Callan O’Reilly five over after eight.