PICTURED: APA / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI
Golf professional Josef “Sepp” Straka first took the lead at the Olympics in Tokyo with a sensational 63 round on the first day. The Viennese, who played in the first day group, stayed eight strokes under par on his flawless round on Thursday and leads the 60th field before a weather interruption due to lightning in the sky and the risk of thunderstorms. Matthias Schwab delivered an opening round of 69.
The two Olympic debutants Straka and Schwab had the honor of opening the Olympic golf tournament in the beautiful Kasumigaseki Country Club. After Bernd Wiesberger's resignation, Straka, who was given the second Austrian starting position, played in the first flight of the day at 7.30 a.m. Straka was the first to “finish” and, thanks to his famous and above all flawless performance, was two shots ahead of a trio when the lap had to be interrupted shortly before 2:00 pm Japan time due to weather conditions.
Longhitter Straka owed this mainly to his flawlessness. Which was remarkable because the long hitter, accompanied by twin brother Sam on the bag, likes to “scatter” his often risky punches and most recently missed the cut three times in a row on the PGA tour. In Japan, the 28-year-old initially managed three to eight but four birdies (hit wins) on the fairways. He managed the same from the 13th to the 17th hole, but this time he didn't make any mistakes.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Straka happily about the Olympic flair that was noticeable despite the lack of spectators. “It's extremely cool to be here. I had a lot of fun,” said the native of Vienna, who lives in the USA, on ORF television. The 28-year-old commented mischievously that his lap was almost perfect – there was even room for improvement: “My game was good. But there is no such thing as perfect in golf.”
It is also only Thursday and thus the first of a total of four tournament days. “You have to take it differently every day. The goal is of course a gold medal,” said Straka with a very clear victory slogan.
While Straka initially led the field of 60, compatriot Matthias Schwab did not act flawlessly on the first day of the tournament. The Styrian played immediately after his compatriot and initially delivered a motley front nine with three birdies and three bogeys. After that, the Styrian went on much more solidly and wins on the 11 and 16 brought the 26-year-old to a 69 and under-par round (-2).
Schwab was initially around 22nd place and was satisfied with it. “I played relatively well, but also interspersed a few unforced errors,” explained the Rohrmooser. “The second nine were okay though, you can build on that. Overall, it was a solid lap.” Schwab is also good at the place (“A pleasure”) and Olympia in general. But he particularly regretted the lack of fans. “What a shame. The Japanese are golf fanatics in themselves.”
With Wiesberger, Austria's best golfers in the world have decided not to take part in the games in Japan. When the sport returned to the Olympic program in Rio in 2016, the Burgenlander came 11th. After the men, the women’s tournament will follow in Tokyo next week, with Christine Wolf from Tyrol taking part.