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Johnson a step ahead

Justin Marville

Johnson a step ahead

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FOR ALL the new faces at Barbados’ premier golf tournament there isn’t anything novel about the top of its leaderboard.
James Johnson began another United Insurance Barbados Open in the same spot as he finished the last, as the reigning eight-time champ shot a two-over 74 yesterday to take a one-stroke lead at the lush Royal Westmoreland course.
He wasn’t at his best, but Johnson didn’t need to be to ensure that he was better than everyone else in slightly windy conditions where he started the front nine with birdies on the first and sixth holes.
But double bogies on the 12th and 18th derailed Johnson’s progress, preventing the 30-year-old scratch golfer from making par on the opening round.
“I didn’t play too badly but I just couldn’t get anything going,” said Johnson, who had issues with his rhythm and timing.
“I’m not overly thrilled with 74. I would prefer to be going into the last day with a big lead but I will have to play a lot better than 74 to have a lead.”
Fellow local Julian Jordan, along with Trinidadians Clint Alfred, Mitchum Jasper and Shane Costelloe, all finished just one shot behind the champ at 75.
Britain’s Rob Stephens, the main threat to Johnson’s title defence, and Mahendra Rajkumar of Trinidad were a further stroke back.
“I thought I was back at home in England when it started raining,” joked Stephens, a 45-year-old first-timer who admittedly struggled at times in the hot conditions. It’s a real battle out there. I’ve never drank so much water around a course.”
Former West Indies cricket captain Brian Lara finished just four strokes behind the leader to find himself among the early leaders, pairing with long-time friend and countryman Dwight Yorke (82) in the opening round
Talented teenager Serena Smith sat atop the women’s leaderboard, holding a three-stroke lead over fellow Barbadian Julia Stephenson after shooting a three-over par 75. Both hit 39 over the front nine before the 15-year-old St Michael School student finished the back nine with 36.
“I wasn’t really impressed with the score,” said Smith, who made good on her intentions to charge into the lead on the first day. “The conditions were all right but I had some problems putting and chipping into the greens.”
A pair of Trinidadians, Ian Chin and Subash Ranjitsing, led the men’s first flight championship after the first round, with each posting a gross score of 83.
In the senior men, Kendrick Haynes stormed out to the early lead, having shot a four over par 76 for a net score of 70. Michael Comissiong was three strokes back (79) while Cally Boyea shot a nine over par 81.
Former local champs Robert Piggott and Ricky Skeete weren’t in the best of form, surprisingly coming further down the pack after shooting gross scores of 80 and 90, respectively.
Barbadian resident Alberto Martinez’s five-over 77 was the best gross score in the super seniors, leading the likes of Trinidad’s golf president Asraph Ali (83) by six strokes.