Golf: Australians lead the pack at NZ Open

By Daniel Richardson of APNZ in Queenstown

Andrew Dodt, Australia, rigt and his caddy talk tactics. Photo / Dianne Mason.
Andrew Dodt, Australia, rigt and his caddy talk tactics. Photo / Dianne Mason.

There's a four-way argument at the top of the New Zealand Open leaderboard after the first round and the leading quartet are all Australians.

Andrew Dodt, Terry Pilkadaris, Jake Stirling and Scott Strange finished their opening 18 holes today at six-under the card.

All four players took on the Millbrook Resort course and liked what they saw as they turned in birdie-soaked rounds, while The Hills proved tougher.

The revamped New Zealand Open, which has taken on a pro-am format, sees players navigate a round at The Hills and the nearby Millbrook Resort during the first two days, with the final two rounds to be played at The Hills this weekend.

The leading foursome hold a one-stroke advantage over five other golfers, including Kiwi Mark Brown, who are tied for fifth at five-under.

Fellow Kiwis Mathew Perry, Dominic Barson and Richard Lee were among a gaggle of players tied for 10th at four-under.

Dodt, who has father-in-law Brett Odgers on the bag this week, said he was looking forward to playing at The Hills tomorrow given he finished second at the New Zealand Open when it was held at Sir Michael Hill's course in 2010.

"Yeah, I am. I'm not really excited about the weather, though, and what's to come,'' Dodt said.

Showers are forecast for tomorrow, with some predictions tipping them to be heavy, so Dodt, a former European Tour regular, said it was a good feeling to have a decent score on the board from the first round.

"[To] get off to a good start, you feel like you're in front of the field a bit. If the weather is pretty ordinary, a good round today makes up for that ... I played four years in Europe so hopefully I go alright.''

Southland's Vaughan McCall was the leading amateur after the first round as he signed for a three-under 69 to be in a share of 17th after he began the tournament at Millbrook.

"It's a great way to start off the national open,'' McCall said. "I was pretty nervous and starting off those first three or four holes, I hit some errant drives and shots that cost me a couple. But I did really well to pull it back together. I backed my form, because I am playing well and pulled some birdies back.''

McCall made his charge with three birdies on the back nine, which is a section of the Millbrook course that was recently redesigned by Greg Turner.

"I think that back nine is just so cool, I love what Turner's done with it. I got to the turn and was just fizzing about playing that back nine.''

New Zealanders David Klein and Nick Gillespie also finished at three-under for the day, alongside McCall in a share of 17th.

Among the other Kiwis in the field, Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison, Brad Shilton, Josh Geary and Kieran Muir were all part of a collection of players at two-under in a tie for 28th.

American Rocco Mediate, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, had an up-and-down day as he finished with an even-par 72 at Millbrook, the same score as playing partner and tournament-favourite Michael Hendry.

The high-profile pair were in 61st after the first round.

- APNZ

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