Brown leads NZ pack after Open first round
Mark Brown is leading the local charge after the opening round of the New Zealand Open in Arrowtown today.
The Wellington pro is tied for fifth after shooting a bogey-free five-under par 67 at Millbrook Resort.
He's one shot behind a group of four Australians - Scott Strange, Andrew Dodt, Terry Pilkadaris and Jake Stirling - who all had six-under par 66s at Millbrook.
Interestingly, seven of the eight players within a shot of the lead played at Millbrook today, with The Hills proving the tougher of the two courses.
In good news for the local fans this afternoon, three other Kiwis - Richard Lee, Dominic Barson and Mathew Perry - have snuck up the leaderboard to four-under after rounds of 68 and are tied for 10th.
A shot further back in a tie for 17th after 69s are Southland amateur Vaughan McCall, Kiwi pros Nick Gillespie and David Klein, and the top-ranked player in the field, Aussie Scott Hend.
Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison and the early leader this morning, Josh Geary, are all at two-under and in touch with the leaders.
Tournament favourite Mike Hendry and American headline act Rocco Mediate struggled to make headway at Millbrook this morning and shot even-par 72s to be tied for 61st.
Brown was happy with his start, characterised by typically sound ball-striking, some good up-and-downs and clutch putts.
"It was cold this morning, tough to make a couple of swings for the first few holes, it was actually quite hard to move. I didn't warm up for a while, but once we got past that turned into a beautiful day," said Brown, who led the last NZ Open, in Christchurch 15 months ago, after three rounds but couldn't pull off the win.
"I hit a couple of rough shots and got up and down to save those to make par, and took advantage of a couple of birdie putts which was a nice way to finish.
"It was just one of those rounds where I've been really good tee to green. Today I was actually a bit looser than what I am normally. I had a couple of really poor shots, a bit up and down, had a couple of putts, kind of shifted my mentality to 'I'm actually playing quite good here' and that gave me that confidence on the greens."
The $900,000 PGA Tour of Australasia event continues tomorrow with the second of four rounds.
The last New Zealander to win the national open was Mahal Pearce in 2003.