RIO DE JANEIRO – Australia’s Marcus Fraser shot a stellar first-day 8-under 63 on Thursday to take the lead in the Rio 2016 golf tournament, while Japan’s hopes languish at the rear of the field.
Fraser’s nine-birdie, one-bogey round set a benchmark course record, as it was the first time a tournament had been held on the par-71 Olympic Golf Course in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca.
Canada’s Graham DeLaet carded a 66 to sit three back and was joined late by Sweden’s 2016 British Open winner Henrik Stenson, who slotted two birdies on his last four holes to take a share of second.
A group of five scored 4-under on the day and lie one shot further back.
Fraser was upbeat about his day’s work, but probably got a lucky break with an early tee time, which allowed him to put the bulk of the course behind him before the wind kicked up.
“I played really steady all day, gave myself chances all day long, managed to make a few long putts, holed out really well,” said Fraser, who has three career wins on the European tour since 2003. “It felt like I did everything really well today.
“To start with, they (the conditions) weren’t too bad, it was nice out there and then gradually it (the wind) picked up and got stronger and stronger.”
“It is going to be pretty tough this afternoon but I will be back in front of the TV watching the guys.”
Britain’s Justin Rose scored the first ace in Olympic competition on the par-3 fourth and finished the day in the 4-under group. Along with Stenson, the 2013 U.S. Open winner Rose is one of the bigger name players within range of the lead.
The world No. 145 DeLaet was complimentary about the course after playing it in anger for the first time, and said it poses plenty of challenges.
“The course is good, I think it exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he said. “There are some sneaky tough par 4s, especially that stretch 11 to 14. If you can get through there in even par that is pretty good golf.”
Japan’s two representatives, Shingo Katayama and Yuta Ikeda, will hope to forget their Olympic debuts, with both going around in 3-over 74 leaving them tied for 50th.
The veteran Katayama said he was affected by the moment, which led him to struggle.
“I had never been as nervous as I was until around hole No. 2 and I didn’t know what to do,” said Katayama, who has plenty of time to get on track as the Olympic tournament has no cut after day two.
“I had trouble with the wind on the back nine. I’m disappointed, as I made some errors.”