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.”