Bjorn, Streelman feel love for Royal Melbourne at World Cup

The 42-year-old Dane carded a five-under 66 to earn a share of the lead with American Kevin Streelman, the pair stealing the limelight from the likes of favourites Adam Scott (75) and Matt Kuchar (71) at the famed sandbelt course.

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Designed by renowned course architect Alister McKenzie, Royal Melbourne’s layout of short holes has become vulnerable to modern golf’s long hitters, but continues to punish risk-takers severely for the slightest of transgressions.

With fluky breezes and a warm sun baking the greens into flint-hard frying pans, most of the 60-man field toiled through bogey-strewn back nines, but Bjorn was a model of control as he drained seven birdies.

“You know, you wake up in the morning and when you are 42-years-old it’s not every time you wake up and think, ‘I am going to go and play golf today’,” Bjorn told reporters.

“But when you are going to go and play Royal Melbourne you kind of get excited about it.

“It is, in my eyes, probably the finest golf course you can ever play… You can’t get carried away. You have got to play smart golf and I could play (it) every day for the rest of my life.”

Streelman was also singing the course’s praises, despite being burnt with bogeys on the treacherous 16th and 18th holes after having roared into a two-stroke lead with a run of five birdies in six holes prior to his first dropped shot.

“It’s just an incredible golf course. It’s a treat to play. I really love it and was able to keep the ball below the holes,” said Streelman, who upstaged fellow American Matt Kuchar after the world number seven warmed up for the tournament with a runner-up finish at the Australian Masters at the same course on Sunday.

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“Some of those pin positions were rather difficult and it is a course you have to be so careful on and I was able to put the ball in the right position and make some really nice birdie putts and also some par saves as well. So it’s a nice start.”

Streelman revealed that he had been given an insider’s guide to Royal Melbourne by a local teenager, who had followed him around the course in the lead-up.

“Darcy, a 19-year-old, grew up out here,” said the 35-year-old, who invited him inside the fairway’s rope to be an impromptu caddy.

“He just knew every break on these green so we kind of picked his brains a little bit, where to leave shots and where you can’t leave shots. He helped out a lot so it was fun having him with me.”

Streelman and Bjorn hold a one-stroke lead in the revamped tournament, with individual honours the main focus after being solely a team event in past editions.

Their rounds also put Denmark and the United States on level pegging in the team component, three strokes above Portugal. Team honours go to the best aggregate scores after four rounds of individual strokeplay.

Twenty-six two-man teams are competing for their nations.

Both Bjorn and Streelman agreed patience would be key over the remaining rounds.

“(U.S. Masters course) Augusta National is what it reminds me of as far as having the angles into certain pins and attacking when you can and just saving par bogey when you can and being really smart,” Streelman said.

“The smartest patient golfer is going to win – and team – is going to win this week.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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