First there was Tiger, now here's koala! Canizares leads Dufner and co in Perth
11:32 GMT, 18 October 2012
Former world No 3 Paul Casey continued his return to form to be amongst the leaders on the opening day of the inaugural ISPS HANDA Perth International.
Casey made the most of perfect conditions to card a five under par round of 67 to be two shots behind joint leaders Michael Hendry and Alejandro Canizares.
Englishman Casey has struggled for form this year after suffering a dislocated shoulder in a snowboarding accident last Christmas.
Bear necessities: American star Jason Dufner and his Amanda meet a koala at the Perth International
Furry friend: South Africa's Charl Schwartzel gets to grips with the Australian native
Perth International Leaderboard
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The 35-year-old did, however, show he
was on the way back at last week's Shinhan Donghae Open on the Korea
Golf Tour with a third-place finish and could have gone even lower today
but for some missed putts.
His long hitting served him well on
the picturesque Lake Karrinyup Country Club course as he birdied all
four par-fives, and picked up a further shot on the par-fourth 10th, in
an unblemished round.
Leader: Alejandro Canizares of Spain tees off on the 17th hole on his way to a superb 65
'I've got some very good golf that is
starting to show through,' Casey said in an interview on Sky Sports
News. 'I'm going to fight and start playing the golf I know I'm capable
of and today was the start of that.'
While his injury problems have seen
Casey slip to 132nd in the world, he was the highest-ranked player on a
leaderboard dominated by little known names.
New Zealander Hendry defied his world
ranking of 574 as he fired eight birdies in his round that was matched
by Canizares, whose only win on the European Tour came six years ago.
Back in form: England's Paul Casey is in contention at Lake Karrinyup after an opening round of 67
Nice approach: Mikko Ilonen on the 11th
Canizares was runner-up at the Reale
Seguros Open de Espana earlier this season but has since slipped to 70th
in the race to Dubai.
With only the top 60 set to qualify to
play at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in late November, the 29-year-old
knows this may be his last chance.
'I'm 70th at the moment so this is
either my last or my second to last tournament of the year,' he told the
European Tour's official website. 'I need a good finish – if I win it will fix a lot of things.'
Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, who is
also ranked outside the top 500, sat in between Casey and the leaders
after his 66 included an eagle three at the 15th.
While the lesser lights took centre
stage tournament drawcard Jason Dufner endured a mixed day in his first
appearance since the United States lost the Ryder Cup.
Dufner had got off to a healthy
beginning when he birdied three of his opening six holes but from there
he struggled, carding four bogeys in total, to finish the day with a 71.
Fellow American Bo van Pelt was a shot
better off while Edoardo Molinari, the brother of one of Europe's Ryder
Cup heroes Francesco, was also back in the field on one under.