Australian duo set early pace at Millbrook

Day one co-leader Matthew Griffin, of Australia, watches the flight of the ball after driving...
Day one co-leader Matthew Griffin, of Australia, watches the flight of the ball after driving from the 10th tee at the New Zealand Open at Millbrook yesterday. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT
Australians love to spoil the party at the New Zealand Open.

Nine of the past 10 tournaments have been won by Australian golfers and they again appear to be lining up for a crack at the biggest share of the $2million purse at Millbrook.

Former champion Matthew Griffin and 50-year-old Scott Hend are tied for the lead after each carded 7-under-par 64 on the slightly friendlier Remarkables layout in glorious conditions yesterday.

Queenstown golfer Ben Campbell is the leading Kiwi and one of eight players at 6-under.

Griffin, who won the 2016 New Zealand Open when it finished at The Hills, reflected with satisfaction on a round that featured seven birdies before he dropped a shot on the 17th.

"Any time you shoot 7-under is a good day," Griffin said.

"I just felt like in these conditions, you want to shoot a low number, especially on the Remarkables course.

"It was nice to play really consistent. I didn’t do anything super special — I just put a score together."

The Melbourne-based Griffin has had a solid career but has been looking at moving away from fulltime golf this year.

He surprised himself by breaking an eight-year drought with victory in the Heritage Classic in January, and clearly any success at Millbrook could alter his plans to step away from the greens to spend more time with his young family.

"I’ve got two young kids, and when you are travelling a lot, it puts the pressure on.

"You want to make sure you are playing well and making enough money to make it worthwhile.

"If you are just breaking even or making a little bit, it’s hard to justify.

"I felt like I had been playing well the last couple of years but hadn’t put the results on the board.

"We’ve got another event in a couple of weeks . . . and I will then be looking after the kids at home for a few months during the year.

"But who knows? With the Asian Tour co-sanctioning, if I can be at the right end of the leaderboard on Sunday, there might be a wee bit more golf.

"It’s nice that the door is still ajar."

Griffin’s round really got rolling when he made a 10.5m birdie putt on the par-3 sixth, and followed with a nice putt on the eighth.

Hend, who has 16 professional wins and tied for 12th
at Millbrook last year, went on a run of five birdies in six holes.

He said he had no great expectations of success after coming to Arrowtown from the European seniors tour.

"Don’t say that too loudly, please. I’m in denial and I’ve turned 50."

Hend has already had success in his new life as a senior, winning one tournament and finishing second in another.

"But I still don’t want to admit that I’m 50. I keep telling myself I’m 18 and I can keep up with all these young guys."

Others within cooee of the leaders include 2019 Open champion Zach Murray at 5-under, and two-time champion Brad Kennedy and highly rated David Micheluzzi at 4-under.

Japanese golfers Tomoyasu Sugiyama and Tomohito Kurita are tied with New Zealand amateur Zack Swanwick and partner Chris Hart for the pro-am lead at 12-under-par.


NZ Open
Leading scores
-7 Matthew Griffin (Aus), Scott Hend (Aus)
-6 Ben Campbell (NZ), Ben Wharton (Aus), Jay McKenzie (Aus), Jung Hyun Um (Kor), Kevin Yuan (Aus), Soonsang Hong (Kor), Sam Brazel (Aus), Gunn Charoenkul (Thai)
-5 Carlos Pigem (Spain), Jarryd Felton (Aus), Kieran Muir (NZ), Kade McBride (Aus), Zach Murray (Aus)