Peter Lawrie and David Higgins picked up crucial late birdies but still have work to do to keep their European Tour cards at the final counting ISPS Handa Perth International at Lake Karrinyup in Western Australia.
Sweden’s Peter Hedblom needs a win to secure his playing rights for next season and set-up that dream scenario by firing a four under 68 to grab a share of the first round lead with former World Amateur World Number One Jin Jeong of South Korea and the Australian pair of James Nitties and Clint Rice.
But it was far tougher going for Lawrie and Higgins, who both made late birdies to finish the day just inside the top 65 and a ties who will make the cut tomorrow.
Dubliner Lawrie, who will need a Top-30 finish to keep his card, was two over par for the day with two holes to play before a birdie two at the eighth and a closing par gave him a 73 and a share of 49th with Higgins and Michael Hoey on one-over par.
Waterville man Higgins had a rollercoaster round featuring an eagle three, three bogeys and a double bogey in his first 15 holes before he birdied the seventh and ninth - his 16th and 18th holes - for his 73.
The top 110 in the Race to Dubai keep their cards and Lawrie is 114th, €11,248 short of salvation, while Higgins is 115th and needs at least €17,369 to go past 110th ranked Gaganjeet Bhullar, who is defending his Venetian Macau Open title on the Asian Tour this week.
That means that the Kerryman needs a Top-20 finish at worst and a 73 leaves him three strokes outside that mark while Lawrie is two shots off Top-30 pace.
As for Hedblom, he’s ranked 179th in the Race to Dubai and knows he must win to keep his card.
“I’m so far back that I need to win so I have nothing to hold back on,” Hedblom said. “You just have to go for everything. I can’t be happy with second, third, fourth or fifth – I just have to play as well as I can and see if I can win the tournament.
“Today it felt like any tournament when I’m starting. But if I will be leading playing the last day, then maybe I’ll feel the tension. But right now, it’s just one round out of four but it’s good to at least have a chance to do it.”
Michael Hoey also shot a one over 73 as American star Dustin Johnson posted a three under 69 to lurk just one shot off the pace and join an eight-strong group of players tied for fifth spot.
Johnson doesn’t have to worry about where he will be playing his golf next year and the seven-time PGA Tour winner and Ryder Cup star was pleased with his opening effort given he is recovering from a slight illness.
“I’m feeling way better than I was,” said Johnson. “I just have a little bit of a cough which is okay – I’m back to where I feel good enough to play good golf. I played pretty well today and the course is fun to play.
“The greens are really firm and they are really fast so you have got to be careful where you hit the ball on your second shots. You don’t want too many downhill putts because it’s hard to stop the ball and if you miss the green in the wrong side, you’re dead.”
Complete Round One Scores:
68 P Hedblom (Swe); C Rice (Aus); J Jeong (Kor); J Nitties (Aus);
69 N Cullen (Aus); F Andersson Hed (Swe); D Johnson (USA); S Little (Eng); D Papadatos (Aus); B Åkesson (Swe); N O’Hern (Aus); B Watt (am) (Aus);
70 B Van Pelt (USA); R Coles (Eng); J Hansen (Den); A Brown (Aus); R Blizard (Aus); J Younger (Aus); T Petersson (Swe); M Brown (Nzl);
71 C Campbell (Aus); E Kofstad (Nor); R McGowan (Eng); B Rankin (Aus); S Hansen (Den); B Rumford (Aus); D Bransdon (Aus); J Sjöholm (Swe); T Bond (Aus);
72 D Drysdale (Sco); D Popovic (Aus); R Haller (Aus); R Fisher (Eng); M Fraser (Aus); P Cooke (Aus); R Finch (Eng); P Wilson (Aus); S Wakefield (Eng); P Spargo (Aus); A Hall (Aus); A Bland (Aus); O Fisher (Eng); N Basic (Aus); C Parry (Aus); D Willett (Eng); B Ninyette (Aus); B Lamb (Aus); C Doak (Sco);
73 M Jonzon (Swe); P O’Malley (Aus); B Grace (RSA); P Lonard (Aus); J Lara (Esp); J Morrison (Eng); A Snobeck (Fra); C Lee (Sco); M Griffin (Aus); M Hoey (Nir); J Edfors (Swe); A Katholos (Aus); D Higgins (Irl); W Ormsby (Aus); M Korhonen (Fin); G Havret (Fra); P Lawrie (Irl);
74 S Leaney (Aus); M Guyatt (Aus); G Paddison (Nzl); M Millar (Aus); A Kaleka (Fra); M Jager (Aus); A Levy (Fra); R Fox (Nzl); A Kelly (Aus); J Kingston (RSA); S Henry (Sco); S Jones (Aus); S Dartnall (Aus); A Buckle (Aus); L McKechnie (Aus); A Martin (Aus); G Lockerbie (Eng);
75 N Holman (Aus); M Cain (Aus); F Zanotti (Par); A Stolz (Aus); M Ballard (Aus); M Tullo (Chi); K Mueck (Aus); O Floren (Swe); T Cox (Aus); A Summers (Aus); T Van Der Walt (RSA); C Hancock (Aus); P Erofejeff (Fin); M Stieger (Aus); T Wood (Aus); A Crawford (Aus); D McKenzie (Aus); D Fox (Aus); J Wilson (Aus); J Scrivener (Aus); R Bland (Eng);
76 S Kjeldsen (Den); N Green (Aus); M Wright (Aus); J Walters (RSA); P Casey (Eng); S Jeffress (Aus); M Sim (Aus); R Karlberg (Swe); A Presnell (Aus); J McLean (Aus); M Foster (Aus); R McEvoy (Eng); J Wade (Aus);
77 C Paisley (Eng); R Batibasaga (Aus); S Laycock (Aus); P Fowler (Aus); B Shilton (Nzl); A Hartø (Den); B Stone (RSA); L Jensen (Den);
78 D Van Der Walt (RSA); K Felton (Aus); J Norris (Aus); M Delpodio (Ita); L Deagan (Aus); K Richardson (Aus); J Geary (Nzl); M Moore (Aus); R Lynch (Aus); L Gagli (Ita); M Pearce (Nzl); A Dodt (Aus);
79 M Nixon (Eng); K Pratt (Aus); M Goggin (Aus);
80 R Kulacz (Aus);
81 J Lagergren (Swe); G Reed (Aus);
82 A Tschudin (Aus);
85 M Giles (Aus).