New Zealand Open champion Daniel Nisbet lit up the Palmerston Golf Course as he fired into the early lead at the MMC Northern Territory PGA Championship.

Teeing off the 10th hole on Thursday morning, Nisbet cruised around the back nine in two under. But it was on his second nine where he caught fire, recording four consecutive birdies before adding another at the ninth for an opening round of seven-under 64.

“I was a bit aggressive out there and it paid off. I was hitting my driver really well so I am happy,” said Nisbet, who was bogey-free.

The performance came as somewhat of a surprise for Nisbet who has missed the cut in this tournament the past two years.

“I was saying in the lead up that I have never played that well here and I have missed the cut. So it was nice to get the monkey off my back and shoot a low one. Hopefully, I can do it another three times,” he said.

“Looking back at the New Zealand Open, I hadn’t had the best results there before the win either so I think coming in with lower expectations, taking it as it comes and not putting too much pressure on myself is paying dividends.”

Playing in the afternoon field, 23-year-old Kade McBride pushed through sunstroke to shoot six-under 65.

“I think the Darwin heat is getting to me, I hit a wall on the back nine but I got some good advice to take hydralyte and that got me going again,” said McBride.

“I am happy with how I handled the back nine, it got pretty tough out there but I managed to salvage it pretty well and came home with a good score.”

South Australian Peter Cooke, who fired five-under 66, had to forgo a practice round when his golf clubs didn’t arrive until the eve of the tournament.

“My clubs didn’t arrive on my flight Tuesday night but luckily they arrived last night. I didn’t get to do any practice so I was lucky that I managed to pull something out this morning,” said Cooke.

“I had done a lot of work before the tournament and have been playing nicely so I didn’t really have a reason to worry too much.”

Joining Cooke, tied third on the leaderboard, is Damien Jordan who enjoyed a good day with the flat stick.

“That’s the best start that I have had for a while so I am hoping to keep this putter hot,” said Jordan.

“I sunk a lot of good putts out there, a couple that I wasn’t expecting, so I just need to keep that momentum going.”

Jordan, who served two tours of Iraq with the Australian Army, was quick to thank the 25 American Marines who are volunteering at the tournament this week whilst deployed in Darwin for Exercise Pitch Black, an international air force exercise held in the Top End every two years.

“It was cool to see a few of the Marines around the course. I spent a bit of time with them in Iraq, they are good lads,” added Jordan. “It’s great that they and all the volunteers are able to come and help with the tournament, so thanks to everyone involved.”

Also at five under were Michael Sim (WA), Adam Burdett (VIC), Brad Moules (SA) and Campbell Rawson (NZ).

Defending champion Travis Smyth had an interesting day on course. Finding just three fairways, the rookie pro managed to shoot four-under 67 which featured a lone bogey.

“The trees really overhang on this course so I was playing a lot of punch, low fade and low draw shots,” said Smyth. “I was very happy with how I scrambled because it could have been a lot of bogeys out here but I only made one.”

Joining Smyth on four under and rounding out the top-10 are Tim Stewart (NSW), Jack Wilson (VIC), Maverick Antcliff (QLD), Jake Higginbottom (NSW), Braden Becker (WA) and Scott Arnold (NSW).