Golf: Wind the hurdle for potential champ

By Daniel Richardson

Ryan Fox was leading the Kiwi charge after the first round as he made the most of the still conditions yesterday morning to produce a two-under 70. Photo / Geoff Sloan.
Ryan Fox was leading the Kiwi charge after the first round as he made the most of the still conditions yesterday morning to produce a two-under 70. Photo / Geoff Sloan.

New Zealand's quest to see a local win their national golf open for the first time since 2003 will depend on how they can negotiate a breezy Clearwater course during the weekend.

Steady gusts have dominated proceedings during the first two rounds of the tournament in Christchurch, which is full of Kiwi hopefuls and unknown Australians.

Ryan Fox was leading the Kiwi charge after the first round as he made the most of the still conditions yesterday morning to produce a two-under 70.

Overnight he was in a share of second. He was five under at one point but a double bogey on the third hole, where he lost his ball, proved costly.

A number of players said in the lead-up to the tournament they thrive on playing in windy conditions because it can help their game and those who enjoy the breeze are likely to be in the mix on Sunday.

First-round leader Craig Hancock, who hit a four-under 68 in his debut at Clearwater, was happy with his opener.

"I struggled a bit early but with the wind towards the end, I'm used to it in Tassie so it wasn't all bad for me. A lot of the holes are facing the water. I don't like the water too much. I don't think anyone does but it was nice to put a score on the board," he said.

"It just needs to warm up a bit - it's a bit cold over here. Tassie's a bit warmer. You've just got to concentrate a bit harder. You probably play a bit better in the breeze because you're not so relaxed."

Southlander Vaughan McCall was the leading amateur after the first round and the 21-year-old, who plays out of the Gore Golf Club, signed for a 71.

"I hit the ball really solidly, which is just what you need to do out there in the wind," he said. "You need to strike the ball really well. I'm happy with how I'm hitting it and I rolled the rock really well too."

Josh Geary was one of the players who struggled during the first round, despite finishing third at last year's Open on the same course.

The former web.com tour professional carded an eight-over 80 and was in search of a strong second round to make the cut.

Other Kiwis who played well in the first round included Mark Brown, Gareth Paddison and Mahal Pearce who were all even par or better.

Former two-time champion Greg Turner, who is playing for the first time since 2002, fired a two-over 74.

Of the players who got out on the greens early this morning, Australian Brody Ninyette performed the best and was four-under through 14 holes as he looked to claw a few shots back after hitting an 80 yesterday.

A strong majority of the leading players are due to tee off during the afternoon, when the breeze will be the strongest, which should prove a great leveller for those who enjoyed the best of the weather yesterday morning.

- APNZ

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