Michael Hendry predictably spearheads the New Zealand challenge at the $A1 million Australian Masters, underscoring his excellent form on the Australasian PGA Tour with a fine opening round at Kingston Heath today.
The 32-year-old Aucklander carded a 5-under 67 on the Melbourne sand belt layout today to sit in a three-way share of second alongside Australian world No. 5 Adam Scott and English defending champion Ian Poulter - two of the tournament's drawcards.
Queenslander Matt Guyatt carries a two stroke lead into the second round after a clinical 7-under 65 constructed in unusually benign conditions.
Hendry, who leads the Australasian PGA Tour order of merit from compatriot Mark Brown, opened up in style with a birdie and picked up shots on the third, seventh and eighth - his only blemish was a bogey five on the fourth when he found a sand trap off the tee.
The right hander from Gulf Harbour brushed aside that setback, turned at 3-under the card and added a brace of birdies on a trouble-free back nine to complete a solid, risk-free round.
"It's always nice to get off to a solid start. I played really well all day," he said."
"I just made one simple little error on four when the ball just went a little further off the tee than I expected and ended up in a bunker.
"I hit a lot of greens and put myself in position off the tee which is probably the key around here. I wasn't making it tough on myself to make par."
Although pleased with his putting - the highlight was a draining a 10-footer on the eighth green - Hendry said his conservative approach was key.
"My course management got me round. I had a lot of really solid shots. I was taking clubs off the tee that weren't going to get me a long way down there but were always going to be pretty risk-free.
"I always had a second shot and you're bound to hit a few of those close and roll a couple in."
Mahal Pearce, one of the early starters, was the next best of the 15-strong Kiwi contingent with a 3-under 69.
Jared Pender was a shot further back in a tie for 14th, left hander Gareth Paddison was 1-under while Brown, Nick Gillespie, Brad Shilton and Doug Holloway were in a cluster of golfers on even par.
Ryan Fox, Pieter Zwart, Michael Long (73s) and Ben Campbell (74) are still capable of making the cut though Hamish Robertson (76), Kevin Smith (78) and Sven Puymbroeck (79) are destined to have the weekend off.
- Fairfax Media
World No 1 Rory McIlroy is in hot form, but how many majors do you expect him to win?Related story: (See story)