Stephen Leaney led the West Aussie charge after the opening round of the Emirates Australian Open as the veteran continued his good form from the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open.
Leaney signed for a four-under 67, to trail leader Cameron Davis by four strokes, on a day defending champion and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth was forced to toil in front of a bumper crowd at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
Leaney, who at 48 is twice Spieth’s age, picked up from where he left off at Royal Perth last month when he ended a 13-year title wait to lift the Roy Paxton Bowl for a record-equalling sixth time.
The veteran fired four birdies in a flawless round which underlined his consistency and left him level in sixth place, a shot behind former world number one Jason Day.
The day belonged to Davis, however, after the 22-year-old New South Welshman sprung out of the traps with six birdies in his first seven holes to immediately leave the field in his wake.
A bogey at the par-four ninth was the only blemish for Davis – who teamed with Curtis Luck to help Australia lift the Eisenhower Trophy last year – before he picked up three more birdies on the way home.
Jason Scrivener and Stephen Dartnall were the next-best placed Western Australians at two under with another veteran Nick O’Hern, Brett Rumford and Brody Martin a further shot back.
World number two Spieth was alongside that group on one-under after a mixed day for the Texan that included five bogeys and six birdies.
Scrivener claimed his maiden professional win at last week’s NSW Open, when the 28-year-old stormed to a six stroke win, and set about vindicating his decision to forgo a return to the European Tour this week to remain in Sydney.
It was a testing day for Luck, who eagled the par-five 14th after starting on the back nine, only to hit trouble around the turn when he carded five bogeys in the space of seven holes.
The 21-year-old Cottesloe member, who was tied for the lead after the opening round at this tournament as an amateur a year ago, finished the day at two-over but still thick in contention to make the weekend.
Jarryd Felton, who was sixth at the NSW Open last week, dropped a couple of late shots to be even for the day while Min Woo Lee was the best of the West Aussie amateur at one over.
#AusOpenGolf I WA Open champion Stephen Leaney checks in with a four-under 67.
As if we needed reminding the 48-year-old still has it.
Cam Davis leads at -8.
— GolfWA (@GolfWestAust) November 23, 2017
At the top of the leaderboard world number 12 Day signalled his intentions to make up for lost time, on his return to Australia for the first time in four years, with a 66 that left him tied for third.
It could have been even better for the 30-year-old but for a double bogey on his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth, as he searches for a first win of the year.
“It was exciting to play. The crowds were terrific out there,” Day said.
“Our whole group played well and it’s really nice to be able to kind of feed off each other,” said Day, who played with Geoff Ogilvy (69) and Rod Pampling (68).
“I felt like I played some pretty solid golf out there. I didn’t miss many fairways and I didn’t miss many greens. I think the biggest thing for me is to just try and play the way I’ve been playing but hole more putts.”
Fellow Queenslander Taylor Macdonald sat between Day and leader Davis at six under after he made seven birdies.
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