Aussies own NZ PGA leaderboard after day one

Last updated 09:36 01/03/2013
Adam Bland
ANYTHING BUT: Adam Bland's late charge sees him top of the leaderboard with fellow countrymen Matthew Ballard and Aaron Townsend.

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A late charge by Australian Adam Bland forced a three-way tie for the lead heading into the second day of the NZ PGA Championship near Queenstown today.

Bland's round was anything but.

A blistering run which started with an eagle on the par four 15th saw him shave eight shots off his card in the space of eight holes, joining the Aussie barbie at the top of the leaderboard with five holes left in his round.

While he was unable to overtake compatriots Matthew Ballard and Aaron Townsend, Bland was happy to join them with a six under 66.

Bland, a former Nationwide Tour player who three years ago lead an Australian Masters field which included Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, had low expectations after struggling during 2013.

''Obviously coming in you just hope to play well and try to get some consistency out of the week.''

Queenslander Ballard thrust himself into contention with consecutive eagles midway through his round.

On the par five 17th, the 35-year-old hit a long uphill second shot to the back of the green and then sank the putt.

At the par four 18th he holed his second shot in front of the clubhouse with a seven iron from 158m.

''Sometimes you go a few weeks, months without even having an eagle, let alone two in a row. It certainly bolstered the scorecard,'' he said.

Ballard admitted his form had been ''terrible'' before arriving at The Hills.

''My last few weeks I think I've missed the last three or four cuts, I try not to count,'' he said.

''It's been a little rough, I'll be honest. In golf, it's a funny thing, you never know what's around the corner. I keep telling myself that and the proof's in the pudding today.''

Ballard has been working hard with his coach, particularly on his putting - a strength which had become a weakness.

Townsend was flawless, but still felt he left some shots out on the course.

''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.''

Defending champion Michael Hendry was happy to be only a shot in arrears despite not hitting the ball well and is employing a simple game plan this week.

''There's so much golf to be played yet, just keep accumulating a total and hopefully over 72 holes the accumulation of my total is a bit better than everyone else's,'' he said.

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"It's when you start to push too early that the problems arise...just be patient and if you put yourself out of position try and find a way to make par, and if you can't make par, make no worse than bogey and generally you'll be there or thereabouts.''

Earlier, New Zealand's Daniel Pearce and Japan's Toshinori Muto got to five under before fading.

Pearce slipped to a two under 70, while Muto, who shot four birdies in his first eight holes, finished at four under.

Josh Geary shot out of the gate in the afternoon with four birdies in his first five holes, but he went to the turn with three straight bogeys and ended up with a three under 69.

Leading New Zealand amateur Vaughan McCall had a difficult day, at one point leaking five bogeys in six holes on the way to a five over 77.

Te Anau's David Klein had a four over 76, while golfing legend Hale Irwin carded an eight over 80.

The amateur portion of the event gets underway at neighbouring Millbrook from 10am this morning, with celebrities including Lydia Ko,

Mahe Drysdale, Sir Ian Botham and George Gregan competing in a seeding tournament before playing alongside the professionals at the weekend.

- Stuff

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