Three way lead around first round of 100th New Zealand Open

Wairarapa’s Harry Bateman has stormed home to be part of a three way share of the lead on the opening day of the 100th NZ Open in Queenstown.

Bateman started the day with two bogeys, but had four birdies and an eagle over his last six holes at The Hills to join Australian rookie Zach Murray and Japan’s Ryuko Tokimatsu at eight-under.

“It was one of the weirdest rounds I have ever had. I topped it off the first tee and made bogey there and the next hole. Then I stuck in and got it back to par, and then lit it up over the last six or seven holes,” Bateman said.

“I honestly feel I didn’t play that well but got some good breaks and holed some great putts. My short game was unreal. I had a good two days at the Open last year but I bit my legs off a bit. Hopefully I will just keep charging this time.”

Twenty-one-year-old Murray shot a flawless round of 63 which included eight birdies and after only a few minutes of preparation.

“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 after winning the West Australian Open as an amateur, and finished fourth at Asian Q School.

His opening round was 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.”

Japan’s ninth-ranked player Tokimatsu, who has three career titles to his credit, came home strong with two of his nine birdies coming on the eighth and ninth finishing holes at The Hills.

Japan’s Kodai Ichihara is in fourth place at six-under, while three players share fourth place on five-under, including Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat and Australians Ashley Hall and Maverick Antcliff.

There are 86 players in red figures with 16 players in a share of ninth on four-under, including US-based Tim Wilkinson and Josh Geary.

One of the pre-tournament favourites Ryan Fox, who arrived home yesterday from playing in the World Golf Championship in Mexico, fought off jet-lag to shoot a three-under par total at Millbrook, defending champion Daniel Nisbet was one-under and the 2000 New Zealand Open winner, Michael Campbell, returning from a six-year hiatus from the game, settled for even par at The Hills.

Fox was not unhappy with his opening round.

“I left a few slip out there but three-under is not bad looking at the leaderboard and looks like there is some scores to be had at The Hills. Hopefully we get a nice afternoon and a little bit warmer which makes is easier to score.”

There are 152 professionals and 152 amateurs taking part with the first two rounds at both The Hills and Millbrook Resort before a cut to the top 60 players plus ties to compete the final 36 holes at The Hills.

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