Australian Aaron Townsend has fired his way to an early lead on the first day of the NZ PGA Championship near Queenstown.
Townsend's flawless six under 66 included six birdies and gives him a one-shot lead over a four strong group which includes defending champion Michael Hendry and Australians Troy Cox, Stephen Dartnall and Matthew Ballard.
Townsend, who finished tied for sixth at the Victorian Open last week, has arrived at The Hills in good form and made the most of beautifully still conditions.
''Very lucky to start well, like we had perfect conditions this morning so it was nice to make six birdies and no bogeys, pretty stress free,'' he said.
Townsend's score could have been even better if he had converted during the first half of his round.
''I played really good my front nine, I hit it to 10 feet probably four times and missed, but I was hitting good putts, so I wasn't too disappointed. I knew if I stayed patient they would eventually find the bottom.''
Hendry, who started on the 10th hole, had three birdies on the back nine, then bogeyed the 18th before recovering for a five under 67.
''Obviously a really good score, I wouldn't say I'm particularly happy with the way I hit the ball, it was a bit rough,'' Hendry said.
''I managed to manage my game around the course today rather than flush it, as the phrase goes.''
Earlier, New Zealand's Daniel Pearce and Japan's Toshinori Muto got to five under before fading.
Pearce slipped to two under, while Muto, who shot four birdies in his first eight holes, is two shots off the pace.
- © Fairfax NZ News