Surprise PGA leader inspired by dad's battle

Daniel Popovic plays a shot on the ninth fairway during round one of the Australian PGA at the Palmer Coolum Resort yesterday.
Daniel Popovic plays a shot on the ninth fairway during round one of the Australian PGA at the Palmer Coolum Resort yesterday. Bradley Kanaris

INSPIRED by his father's cancer battle, Daniel Popovic delivered a birdie blitz to be the surprise first-round leader at the Australian PGA Championship in Coolum.

Victorian Popovic, 26, shrugged off mostly ordinary form since winning the 2012 PGA Tour of Australasia's qualifying school to fire an eight-under 64 at the Palmer Coolum Resort yesterday.

He birdied the first four holes and started the back nine with three straight birdies.

His only blemish was a bogey on the par-five 15th.

Popovic will take a two-shot lead over fellow Aussie Scott Strange into the second round.

In joint third at five under are China's Zhang Xin Jun, Singaporean Choo Tze-huang and Australian Geoff Ogilvy, the 2008 PGA champion.

Australian veteran Peter Senior, who won the Australian Open last Sunday, is at four under.

The Sunshine Coast's Steven Bowditch fired a two-under 70 to be tied 19th with a host of players, including Northern Ireland's 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and veteran Australian Stuart Appleby.

Popovic revealed his father Radi, who introduced him to golf, was diagnosed with terminal leukaemia earlier this year.

"It really shook me around a lot and it still sort of does when I think about it," he said. "But I find a lot of strength in him with how he is fighting that and how he really wants me to push forward with my golfing and find happiness through him.

"My mum and dad will be over the moon (with his opening round)," he added.

"My dad will be in tears and so will my mum. They are very sensitive people."

Prior to the PGA Championship, Popovic had played 12 tour events and made six cuts.

His best results were equal sixth at the NSW PGA Championship last month and eighth at January's Victorian Open, his first event. He finished tied for 62nd at the Australian Open.

"The thing is, I have been hitting it good for a long time now," he said.

Topics:  daniel popovic golf pga

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