One was close to quitting while the other never stops playing and now Matthew Griffin and Scott Hend are co-leaders after day one of the 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sports.

Winner of the Heritage Classic on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia in early January, Griffin had eight birdies and a lone bogey in his round of 7-under 64 on the Remarkables Course in perfect conditions at the Millbrook Resort on Thursday morning.

It looked to be enough to hold the outright lead until Hend swooped late with a 64 of his own, also on the Remarkables, making five birdies in eight holes for a back nine of 5-under 30.

In a jam-packed leaderboard littered with international flags, there are a total of 36 players within just three strokes of the lead after Round 1, the Remarkables Course playing to an average of 69.03 and the Coronet 70.57.

Local favourite Ben Campbell, Korean pair Soonsang Hong and JungHyun Um, Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Aussies Ben Wharton, Jay Mackenzie, Sam Brazel and Kevin Yuan all posted 6-under 65 to share third through 18 holes.

Now 40 years of age and a father of two, Griffin has recently pulled back from his long-time commitment to the Japan Golf Tour to spend more time at home.

He’d been exploring new opportunities outside of professional golf but went wire-to-wire at The Heritage Golf and Country Club last month.

Griffin again finds himself on top of the leaderboard at Millbrook as he seeks a second NZ Open title to go with his triumph at The Hills in 2016.

“It’s nice to roll a few putts in and make plenty of birdies and get right into the leaderboard,” said Griffin after his morning round.

“I feel like my game’s in great shape and feel like if I can continue playing the way I have, I’ll give myself a good chance.”

Hend only squeezed in one practice round after arriving from last week’s Asian Tour event in Oman.

Dividing his time between the Asian Tour – where he is a 10-time winner – and the senior circuit, Hend has not yet given up showing the young guys how it’s done.

“I still don’t want to admit that I’m 50,” Hend joked. “I keep telling myself I’m 18 and I can keep up with all these young guys.

“It’s more about being smart these days. I’m not too smart so it takes all I’ve got to keep up with them.”

A perennial Queenstown contender, Campbell is seeking to become just the second home-grown winner of the NZ Open since Mahal Pearce in 2003.

He was runner-up to Michael Hendry in a playoff in 2017 and climbed into contention with a long bomb for eagle at the par-5 18th on Thursday.

Campbell leads a group of six Kiwis within three strokes of the lead after Round 1 and content with where he finds himself heading into Round 2.

“It was good to finally hold one there on the last,” Campbell said of his final flurry.

“I probably had four or five putts sort of just come up short that I thought were in so nice to make one there on the last.

“My game wasn’t too far away today. It could have been a really low one so nice to start like that.”

Given the number of points on offer, this week is pivotal in determining the top three on the Order of Merit.

Projected No.1 Kazuma Kobori got off to a difficult start with a round of 1-over 72 while Brett Coletta (third), Daniel Gale (fourth) and David Micheluzzi (fifth) are among the 19 players at 4-under par.

“Played with ‘Micha’ today and we’re kind of just egging each other along towards the end there,” said Coletta.

Now plying his trade on the DP World Tour, reigning Order of Merit champion Micheluzzi shot 67 despite some struggles off the tee.

“I started off a bit all over the shop to be honest,” Micheluzzi conceded.

“I kind of hit it everywhere, but I managed to score all right.

“It’s close. If I can get the driver in play, which it has been of late, I like my chances of being up there in contention.”