Three share lead in Melbourne

Associated Press

Melbourne, February 3:

Trevor Immelman replaced a more familiar South African at the top of the first-round leaderboard at the Heineken Classic, shooting a 6-under-par 65 along with England’s Steve Webster and Australian Peter Lonard at Royal Melbourne.

Ernie Els, trying to the win the tournament for the fourth year in a row, had a frustrating 1-over 72. Els had three birdies and four bogeys, including back-to-back bogeys at the sixth and seventh holes. Three were tied one shot back with 66 — Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Australian Brad Lamb and England’s John Bickerton.

More than 120 millimetres of rain hit the course on Wednesday and early Thursday, forcing a 2 1/2 hour delay to the start. High winds also uprooted trees near the club, but caused no damage to the greens or fairways on the composite course used for the 1998 Presidents Cup.

Darkness prevented 24 players from completing their first rounds when play was called for the day.

Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, runner-up last week at the Caltex Masters at Singapore, bogeyed three of four holes on the back nine but birdied 18 for a 68, one of eight at that score. Greg Norman, playing in Montgomerie’s group, double-bogeyed 18 for a 76.