SYDNEY – Former top-ranked American Jordan Spieth yielded the spotlight in Thursday's first round of the Australian Open to a pair of rising local stars: U.S. amateur champion Curtis Luck and rookie professional Lucas Herbert.
Herbert and Luck both shot 5-under 67 to lead the tournament by a shot from a group of five players including the 51-year-old Australian Peter O'Malley who shared the lead until he bogeyed his final hole.
World No.5 Spieth was a further shot back among a group of eight players, including seven Australians, at 3-under 69.
Former champion and local favorite Adam Scott contended with tougher conditions after a late tee-off and finished at 1-over, in a tie for 71st.
Herbert was the leading amateur at the 2014 Australian Open when, still a teenager, he drove from Melbourne to Sydney and slept overnight in his parents' car before qualifying and finishing 23rd overall.
He missed the 2015 Open and used Twitter to plead for an invitation to join the field at this year's tournament at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. In a series of tweets, Herbert pointed out he had been featured in promotional footage for the tournament and said he'd be willing to sleep in the carpark again "to get the vibes back" from 2014.
"I was a bit of a cheeky on Twitter," he said. "I shared a few tweets on Friday afternoon with (organizers).
"Maybe it helped, I don't really know but all I know is the next day I had an invite."
Herbert had five birdies in a flawless 67 while Luck had a more rollercoaster ride on the par-72, 6,344 meter layout, carding seven birdies and two bogies.
Luck was drawn to play alongside Spieth after a stellar season in which he won the U.S. Amateur Championship, the Asia-Pacific Championship and the professional West Australian Open.
I had two great playing partners in Geoff (Ogilvy) and Jordan and they made it a lot of fun for me and obviously I played quite well," he said. "Believe it or not, I wasn't actually that nervous and it was purely because Geoff and Jordan are so casual and so legitimately nice that we were chatting on the first tee before I'd even teed off."
Spieth was equally full of praise for his young playing partner.
"He was better composed than I was, no doubt," he said. "Certainly, I learned a bit from him today on that side of things.
"He was smiling the whole time, really enjoying himself. I got a little frustrated there when I was hitting it close and just couldn't capitalize.
"He could have shot even par for the day and instead he turned that into 5-under there in the middle of the round, so that's the kind of stuff that is unteachable, and he has that."