Americans lead NZ Open

Last updated 05:00 13/03/2009
TUNE UP: Danny Lee has tuned up for his maiden Masters appearance by beating British Amateur champion Reiner Saxton.

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Shut out in Christchurch last week, American golfers are starting to throw their weight around in the New Zealand Open championship.

Three likely lads from the land of the red, white and blue topped the leaderboard after the opening round in Queenstown yesterday.

Josh Teater and Todd Demsey carved out rounds of seven-under-par 65 in calm morning conditions at The Hills at Arrowtown before being joined by compatriot Alex Prugh late in the day.

Prugh produced the round of the day, featuring five birdies in his closing six holes, after battling bracing winds which swept the course in the afternoon.

Tucked in behind the pacesetters after rounds of 67 were Australian Stephen Dartnall, American Martin Piller and Korea's Seung-su Han.

The wind from the southwest largely kept the later groups at bay, too, meaning the joint leaders held a three-shot buffer over a big group banked up on 68, including Steve Alker, the New Zealander who won the New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch last weekend.

Alker was joined by 12 others on that number, among them Australian veteran Peter Senior and his compatriot Adam Bland, and Argentine Miguel Angel Carballo.

Only three New Zealanders were inside the top 30, with Alker joined by Grant Waite, and Wellington amateur Thomas Spearman-Burn, who posted matching 70s to be tied for 28th.

The US-based Waite hit 14 of 14 fairways but the world's leading amateur, Danny Lee, of Rotorua, was not so accurate.

Lee, 18, had to be content with a 71 after stumbling home. He moved to four-under leaving the 13th but bogeyed three of his closing four holes.

Bob Charles set yet another record in his storied career by becoming the oldest player to contest a Nationwide Tour event.

Two days short of his 73rd birthday, Charles signed for a round of 73 which included two double bogeys and five birdies, leaving him one ahead of younger New Zealanders such as David Smail, Gareth Paddison, Josh Geary, Mark Purser and Grant Moorhead.

Not surprisingly 29-year-old Teater volunteered himself as yet another fan of The Hills.

"The course is great and when you take in everything around it [stunning scenery] , it is hard to stay focused. You're looking around. I can't tell you how many pictures I took out here during my practice round."

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- The Dominion Post

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