AN EMOTIONAL Daniel Popovic fired a sizzling eight-under-par 64 to grab a two-shot opening round lead at the Australian PGA Championship today after Greg Norman withdrew due to a bout of food poisoning.
Darrren Clarke carded a two-under-par 70 in the $1.3 million tournament at the Palmer Coolum Resort in southern Queensland.
Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school, flirted with the course record of 62 before settling two shots ahead of compatriot and clubhouse leader Scott Strange.
Popovic birdied his first four holes and went on to sink five consecutive birdies in the round of his life before revealing his father's battle against cancer.
"It really shook me around a lot. It still sort of does when I think about it," the 26-year-old said.
"But I find a lot of strength in him; how he's fighting that and how he really wants me to push forward with my golf and find happiness through him.
"It is a slow-growing cancer but you are unsure of when the actual day will come.
"But he is a strong man and a very stubborn man and I think he'll be here for a little while longer."
Defending champion Greg Chalmers began his title defence with an even-par 72.
The 57-year-old Norman bogeyed the first two holes of his opening round before deciding he could not continue.