Campbell relieved to end round with eagle

Queenstown golfer Ben Campbell leads the Kiwi contingent after the opening round of the New...
Queenstown golfer Ben Campbell leads the Kiwi contingent after the opening round of the New Zealand Open at Millbrook. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT
Ben Campbell waited until his last shot of the day to give his local fans an almighty thrill yesterday.

Campbell drained an eagle putt from 10m-plus to card a 6-under-par 65 on the Coronet course and finish as the leading New Zealander, just one shot off the lead, after the first round of the New Zealand Open.

The Queenstown golfer was relieved to finish with a bang after what was shaping as a solid if unspectacular round.

"It was good to finally hole one there on the last," Campbell said.

"I was pretty close all day.

"I probably had four or five putts just come short. It could have been a really low one.

"I stayed pretty patient. I was getting a bit frustrated through about 10 holes because I hadn’t made too much, but I put some good swings on it and my body felt really good, which was nice."

Campbell said he had hit putts from distance regularly on that green and knew the line to take.

He gets to play on the potentially easier Remarkables layout this morning and has his sights set on good scoring.

"You can definitely go low out here. Hopefully there won’t be too much wind and I can get off to a good start."

Kieran Muir, from the Bay of Plenty township of Ōmokoroa, is the other leading New Zealander after carding a 5-under-par 66.

He said he was pleased with the patience he showed on the course as he fired a single birdie on the front nine and added four more coming home.

"It took me a wee while to build into things," Muir said.

"I got a birdie early and had to stay patient as I was dealing internally with the pace of play as it was a little bit slow.

"I came to terms with that and then knocked one in and got the ball rolling on the second nine."

Muir has had a couple of very good Opens, most recently finishing in a tie for ninth in 2020, but has also missed the cut at his national tournament seven times.

He won his second tournament on the China Tour in October.

"I’ve been really good tee to green for the last few months. It has been about taking the opportunities when I have had them and I have not done that recently."

Getting his name on the Brodie Breeze Trophy would be a far cry from life during peak Covid, when Muir was working as a supermarket assistant with golf opportunities having dried up.

New Zealand No 1 Daniel Hillier posted a 4-under-par 67 on the Remarkables course.

He signed for seven birdies but added three bogies.

"I was quite pleased with how I hit it today," Hillier said.

"I left a few out there.

"There were a lot of subtle pin placements that were difficult to read. It was probably needed or the scoring would have been very low because the course is in great condition and it is a stunning day."

Napier golfer Zach Swanwick, who turned 18 last month, finished the leading amateur at 4-under.

Swanwick, who posted an eagle, three birdies and one dropped shot, revelled in the Millbrook experience just a few months after sitting in the top 10 of the Australian Open after the first round.

"It’s been awesome so far," Swanwick said.

"It’s a very similar atmosphere to the Australian Open. The crowd are vocal, people are singing. It’s a really cool atmosphere."

Rising star Kazuma Kobori showed glimpses of his talent but had to battle to card a 1-over-par 72.

Michael Hendry, playing the Open after recovering from cancer, is at even-par, while Champions Tour star Steven Alker found the going tough, finishing with two double bogies in a 5-over-par 76.