A career-best 21 putts and some Cameron Smith-inspired short-game wizardry has seen David Micheluzzi and Daniel Gale earn top spot after day one of the Tailor-made Building Services NT PGA Championship at Palmerston Golf Course.

With ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit implications throughout the field, a strong start in the NT heat was crucial and none did it better than Victorian Micheluzzi and New South Welshman Gale.

The pair both posted rounds of seven-under 64 to lead Queenslander Kade McBride (66) by a shot with Daniel Beckmann, Austin Bautista and TJ King all in a share of fourth after rounds of five-under 66.

The past two champions at Palmerston, Aaron Pike and Brett Rankin, are among a group of eight players at four-under which also includes Dimi Papadatos, out to improve on his current Order of Merit position of fourth.

Gale (10th) and Micheluzzi (13th) can also open doors to international tours with a victory this week and put themselves at the front of the pack on Thursday in somewhat unconventional fashion.

Micheluzzi needed just eight putts in his first nine holes and putted in from off the green three times during his round, turning a day of difficulties with his ball-striking into one from which he can build.

“I feel like the putts have been coming because I haven’t holed many this season at all and then they just all dropped in one round,” said Micheluzzi, who has had five top-10 finishes this season.

“Hopefully I can keep it going. Hopefully I can hit it a little bit better and hopefully go even lower.

“I’m stoked that I’ve played well all season and just stoked with today’s round because that could have been anything.

“Just got to take everything out of this week because this week’s massive. Not just for me but for everyone.”

Daniel Gale birdied his first two holes in his round of seven-under 64. Photography: Taylah Somerville Photography

Runner-up at the Queensland PGA and TPS Victoria earlier this season, Gale also called on his short game to post 64 in Round 1.

Inspired by watching first-hand Cameron Smith close out the 2018 Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines, Gale has spent the past three years paying particular attention to that aspect of his game and it paid off handsomely on Thursday.

He went bogey-free and credited some crucial par saves with maintaining momentum during the round.

“They really were like birdies,” said Gale. “Where I was on the eighth hole, to get that up and down… I was in the middle of the fairway and only had a 9-iron in and I’ve hit a massive block that’s missed the bunker it’s so far right.

“I had maybe four metres of green to work with, I couldn’t see the green surface, I had probably three metres of fringe over the bunker I had to go through and I had 25 metres to the pin. I just had to hit a high softy. It landed right on my spot and trickled down to a foot.

“When it’s your day it’s your day and that’s what keeps the momentum going. That could have easily been a bogey or worse potentially.

“I just had a couple of those today that kept me going and pretty much made everything I looked at.”

The fight for the two remaining cards to the DP World Tour took an intriguing twist late in the opening round.

Trailing third-placed Andrew Dodt by less than $1,000, Papadatos was tied for the lead when he birdied the par-5 13th but bogeys at 14, 16 and 18 brought him back to four-under on his round.

That puts him one shot clear of Dodt (68) through 18 holes as others jockey for position inside the top 10.

Local favourite Aaron Pike is one of those players who can push his way into the top five, battling through a shoulder injury to be only three off the lead after day one.

“I am battling a bit of a shoulder injury but it’s more psychological,” said Pike after his round of 67.

“There’s a little bit of pain there and it’s right at the end of my golf swing. Today I found myself in the middle part of the round starting to trust it and then by the end it was getting a little bit sore.

“I know the place better than anyone so I’ve got such an advantage. It’s not so much that the pressure is on me, these guys have got to try and catch me and figure out what I’m doing.

“It’s going to be about maintenance on this shoulder. If that can stay fit I think the scoring’s going to sort itself out.”

The second round of the Tailor-made Building Services NT PGA Championship begins at 7.30am Friday morning. Entry for spectators is free each day.

Click here for the Round 1 leaderboard