Swirling winds and ever-changing conditions were unable to slow Brad Kennedy’s charge in the opening round of the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport.
Playing The Hills course in Arrowtown, New Zealand, Kennedy fired seven birdies, three bogeys and a lone eagle at 17 for a 6-under 66 opening scorecard to sit one shot behind morning leader Joohyung Kim.
Despite the conditions Kennedy was pleased to be at the pointy end of the leaderboard with three consecutive rounds at Millbrook Resort ahead.
“It had everything. I thought it was going to hail there at one stage even,” Kennedy said.
“It was a totally different breeze to what we’re used to. Fourteen was down breeze, 15 was into the breeze so it was a totally different golf course. Luckily I didn’t even have a practice round this week so I just went from what I knew and it was a whole new experience.
“(It) actually caught me a couple of times so to get in the clubhouse with as many birdies as I had; it was a good fun round of golf.”
A cancelled flight delayed Kennedy’s arrival into Queenstown but it did little to rattle the two-time NZ PGA champion who was kept on his toes across 18 holes.
Back-to-back results of T3 in the last two weeks put the Queenslander in good stead for the week ahead but Kennedy will remain focussed on playing an even game when round two begins on Friday.
“I pride myself on consistency, especially when I’m through the season. I’ve wasted a lot of shots over the last three weeks.
“So (I’m) trying to get rid of those. Even today, I hit it in two fairway traps which cost me two bogeys and I thought I was ok and the breeze got me both times.
“If I can eliminate the bogeys I’m actually playing well enough in the rest of it and putting well enough to keep performing so I’ve just got to try and be a little bit smarter and try not to make those soft bogeys.”
Leading the New Zealand Open early in round one is 17-year-old Joohyung Kim who seemingly mastered the Millbrook course in challenging winds.
A final-hole birdie closed out a spectacular round of 7-under par for the rising star who is pleased with the progress his game has made in recent times.
“I managed myself really well and gave myself lots of good chances and made some good putts too,” Kim said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play well and I’ve also been working very hard. It’s nice to know that I can still post a good round after a month’s break.
“For tomorrow, I just have to play without any expectations and play the way I did today. A lot will also have to depend on the wind too.”
Reigning champion Zach Murray completed his opening round at Millbrook Resort at 3-under the card after a bogey, followed by a double, reduced his 6-under lead.
Kiwi star Ryan Fox enjoyed a competitive start to round one but his total was also reduced to a card of 2-under.
Golfing superstars Geoff Ogilvy, Michael Campbell and recent winner Lucas Herbert all feature in the afternoon field teeing it up on both The Hills and Milbrook courses today.
The New Zealand Open is being broadcast live in Australia on Fox Sports Australia and Kayo Sports. For broadcast details click here.
For the live round one leaderboard visit pga.org.au.