Rookie gives dad birthday gift

Australian PGA rookie Zach Murray has turned in the best round of his fledgling professional career to take a clubhouse lead on the opening day of the 100th NZ Open in Queenstown.

Australian PGA rookie Zach Murray has turned in the best round of his fledgling professional career to take a clubhouse lead on the opening day of the 100th NZ Open in Queenstown.

Murray shot a flawless round of 63 which included eight birdies – his round so hot that the scorers’ room had to be evacuated after smoke alarms at Millbrook went off and the Fire Service arrived.

It was a stark contrast to Murray’s mid-morning start on a chilly Central Otago day which featured fresh snow on the Remarkables, the affable Victorian unable to find a thermal top in the Millbrook pro shop which would fit him.

“It was a strange warm up for me. I hit about five balls and I was like ‘I’m not going to get warm’, and so I just sat in the pro shop and waited until the sun came out, hit a couple of putts and off I went,” Murray said.

“I do that back at home when I’m just playing with my mates so I suppose I might have to do that more often.”

Murray turned professional in November for the Australian Open and finished fourth at Asian Q School, carrying his good form across the Tasman for his first trip to Queenstown.

“I think it’s probably a credit to the VIS and Golf Australia, and the PGA in Australia as well for allowing me to play a number of professional events before I turned pro,” he said.

“It was pretty steady, I didn’t miss too many fairways and I don’t think I missed a green. It was pretty straightforward, I putted well and everything just sort of clicked and I got a lucky bounce here and there where I needed it. Sometimes those rounds just pop up at the right time and it was fortunate enough that it happened here.”

His opening round was also a nice birthday present for his father.

“(It’s) Dad’s birthday today. He messaged me last night and said 65 would be nice, considering he was born in ‘65, so I added a couple of years onto him today with a 63. I spoke to him quickly just before and he said he doesn’t mind.”

Murray was planning on spending a relaxed afternoon before shifting his focus to The Hills for the second round tomorrow.

“I love both tracks, I felt as though The Hills suited me a little bit more so it will be interesting to see how I go tomorrow. I haven’t been driving it well lately and that’s what’s been letting me down but I drove it well today.

“This is the lowest round I’ve shot as a professional, I’ve had 61 on my home course as an amateur, but this would be one of the best rounds I’ve had.”

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