Craig Hancock. Photo by Getty
You'd have done well to pick who would lead the New Zealand
Open after round one. You'd have done even better if you
could then pick Craig Hancock out of a line-up of golfers.
The unknown Australian, who owns a world ranking of 896,
signed for a four-under 68 at Clearwater today to lead the
national Open by two shots over Kiwi Ryan Fox and compatriot
Hancock came in to the event with a bit of form behind him
after he shared 14th place at the Australian Masters in
Melbourne last weekend but few would have predicted he would
do so well in Christchurch.
The Tasmanian 28-year-old logged five birdies and one bogey
as he took advantage of the wind-free morning conditions to
get under the card.
As the breeze picked the players struggled around Clearwater
and only Australian Heath Reed shot a red number of those who
teed off in the afternoon.
Hancock said he didn't come to the Open with expectations of
"I would have taken probably four even pars or four
one-unders. It's a pretty tough golf course, the rough is
pretty thick. Four under is really good," he said after his
"Anything could happen tomorrow. Who knows what the weather
could do - it could be wet tomorrow. Nobody knows in New
Zealand, do they?"
The weather is forecast to be fine tomorrow but the wind is
likely to pick up again in the afternoon, which makes finding
birdies tough on the greens.
The fact that very few people would know who Hancock is
wasn't lost on him and he said the Kiwi contingent would be
chasing him during the final three rounds.
"I sneak under the radar, for sure. Don't worry about the
Kiwis, they'll come home pretty hard. There's some good
Of the Kiwi challengers, rookie pro Fox signed for the best
score as the Aucklander carded a two-under 70 to be right in
Fox, who began on the 10th hole, was five-under through 11
before he lost his ball on the third hole and dropped two
shots, before he gave up another on the par-four sixth.
"My first 11 holes were really, really solid and then when
the wind got up on the front nine I just sort of struggled to
get myself decent looks at birdie. But my short game held up.
I hit a lot of shots close today, which helped," Fox said.
The 25-year-old will tee off at 12.20pm tomorrow but said he
was still confident he could pull back Hancock even if the
wind got up.
"There's still lots of birdie opportunities out there as long
as you can sort of get through probably 18, seven, eight and
nine unscathed there's still a score there."
Reed, who defied his world ranking of 1479 equal to shoot a
one-under 71, helped his cause with an eagle on the par five
14th when he holed out from 85 metres with his sand wedge.
One-under was the fashionable score of the day as nine
players banked a 71, including Kiwis Vaughan McCall, Gareth
Paddison and Brad Shilton.
Only 12 players went under the card and New Zealanders, Mahal
Pearce, Mark Brown, Mathew Perry and Pieter Zwart all shot an
even-par 72 but they had the luxury of a morning tee time.
Former European Tour pro Greg Turner, who is playing his
first Open since 2002, logged a two-over 74 that was good for
a share of 33rd place.
Michael Hendry came in to the event as one of the
joint-favourites but the Kiwi pro shot a two-over 74, while
former web.com tour player Josh Geary carded an eight-over