It’s appropriate the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open is a tri-sanctioned tournament. A player from each of the PGA Tour of Australasia, Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour share the first-round lead after a phenomenal day of low scoring in Queenstown.
Australian Daniel Nisbet, Japan’s Tatsuya Kodai and American Jarin Todd each shot nine-under par in benign conditions. Nisbet and Kodai shot their 63s at The Hills, while Todd went one stroke better, shooting a 62 at the par-71 Millbrook Resort, which is co-hosting the pro-am style event.
That Todd (pictured) is even in Queenstown is a story in itself. The 31-year-old met tournament director Michael Glading in Indonesia last year when he was handing out flyers to players on a recruitment drive. Todd, ranked No.717 in the world, liked the look of Queenstown on the promotional brochure and here he is, shooting a blemish-free round.
In-form Nisbet is reaping the benefit of being a bit more aggressive and taking dead aim at the flags. “I’m hitting the ball well, which gives me the opportunity to do it,” he said.
Tied for fourth is the Australian trio of Andrew Dodt, Andrew Martin and Travis Smyth.
Dodt’s round featured an astonishing conclusion when he rattled off five birdies and an eagle over his closing six holes to take the early clubhouse lead. He was one under through 12 holes, having missed a handful of birdie putts inside eight feet.
But it all came together on the final stretch where he went 4-3-3-2-3-3. The highlight came on the 503-metre, par-5 17th where Dodt hit a 3-wood onto the green and then drained the 10 footer for eagle.
“It’s not going to get any easier than right now,” said Dodt who is a bit of a New Zealand specialist. He finished sixth last year and was runner-up at The Hills in 2010.
Several young guns are also threatening. Kiwi Harry Bateman carded a seven-under 64 at Millbrook to sit two back in T-7. Australian Open champion Cameron Davis is at six under and T-11.
Also at six under is Sydney rookie Harrison Endycott who continued the blistering start to his professional career with a sizzling 65 at Millbrook. He turned pro late last year after a stellar amateur career where he was a member of the victorious Australian side that won the 2016 Eisenhower Trophy. Endycott has maintained his form from last month’s Oates Vic Open where he lost a playoff to Simon Hawkes.
Of the other notables, Peter Lonard is in a large pack at six-under par. Former champion Dimi Papadatos is at five under and Major winner Y.E. Yang is four under.
Defending champion Michael Hendry and New Zealand’s No.1 Ryan Fox both carded two-under 70 at The Hills to be T-86. Tournament drawcard K.J. Choi is also at two under after a 69 at Millbrook.
In total, 118 players broke par.