Australian bags course record to lead New Zealand Open

A course record 61 has propelled Australian Christopher Wood into a four shot lead after the opening round of the New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport.

The Queenslander went bogey-free, compiling eight birdies and an eagle in a group which included amateur players Sir Ian Botham and his son Liam.

He looped in a 35-foot putt on the 18th green to put an exclamation mark on a new course record of 10 under par for Millbrook Resort’s Remarkables course.

“(It’s) my second lowest round ever, but definitely my lowest in a tournament so this is very special,” he said.

Wood, who won the Victorian PGA two years ago, is in unfamiliar territory leading a $1.7m tournament after the first 71 holes.

“I’ll just try to do what I’ve been doing today the rest of the tournament and hopefully still be here come Sunday. It’s only round one, it’s obviously great to get off to a good start so hopefully get out there early in the morning and keep going.”

The afternoon saw Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent storm his way to a brief lead, ignoring the wind-tossed tussocks on the Coronet course as he tore off five birdies and an eagle in his first nine holes before fading late in his round.

A six-strong group including New Zealand’s Steven Alker, Australians Tom Power Horan and Kit Bittle, Japan’s Yosuke Asaji and Tomoyo Ikemura and Thai player Gunn Charoenkul made the most of relatively benign conditions earlier in the day.

Alker carded seven birdies and a solitary bogey for a six-under 65 on the Remarkables course at Millbrook Resort, with Power Horan the only Coronet course representative to make the lead group.

Alker, 51, was most happy with his work on the greens, apart from one three putt.

“I got a nice solid start, birdied the first couple of holes, so kind of settled down and got into a bit of a groove. I kind of felt like I just left a little bit out there because there wasn’t much wind today and I didn’t get the par fives on my back nine, the front nine,” he said.

“Overall the score was good, I just kept my nose clean, I think I had a three-putt in there but apart from that it was pretty good.”

A further shot back is a group which includes New Zealand amateurs Sam Jones, Jayden Ford and Kazuma Kobori.

Top young New Zealand professionals Daniel Hiller (-4) and Nick Voke (-2) produced useful opening rounds, while 63-year-old former winner Peter Fowler is at 1-under.

Defending champion Brad Kennedy finished with a colourful card which included eight birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey to finish at -3, while 2014 winner Dimitrios Papadatos is handily placed at 5-under.

Players with some mahi to do to make the top 60 and ties cutline include Josh Geary (E), Denzel Ieremia (+1) and former winners Daniel Nisbet and Michael Hendry (both +2).

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