Aussies share lead at NZ PGA Championship
Australians Matthew Ballard, Adam Bland and Aaron Townsend share the lead after the opening round of the NZ PGA Championship near Queenstown.
The trio all carded six under rounds of 66 for a one shot lead over an eight-strong group which includes defending champion Michael Hendry and fellow New Zealander Mathew Perry.
Ballard's round included consecutive eagles on the 17th and 18th, while Bland went on a hot run which netted him an eagle and six birides in the space of eight holes midway through his round.
Townsend fired his way to an early lead with a flawless six under 66 which included six birdies. 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 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.