A 17-year-old South Korean rising star has the lead after the first round of the $1.4m New Zealand Open in Queenstown.

Joohyung Kim went out early at Millbrook and carded a sparkling seven-under 64, in a round featuring an eagle, six birdies and a solitary bogey.

The youngster, who qualified for the Asian Tour after winning three tournaments on the development tour, became the second-youngest player to ever win on the full Asian Tour last year, and is ranked 141 in the world.

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"The wind was swirling all day and it was tough. But I managed myself well and gave myself lots of good chances and made some good putts too," Kim said.

"It's nice to know that I can still post a good round after a month's break. It's a tough day and I'm glad I managed to do well. For tomorrow, I just must play without any expectations and play the way I did today. A lot will also have to depend on the wind too."

Kim leads by a shot from Australians Brad Kennedy, Wade Ormsby and Ben Eccles. Kennedy went out early at the Hills and was met with brutal windy conditions.

"The breeze changed about five or six different directions and caught me a couple of times, so to get in the clubhouse with as many birdies as I had, was a fun round of golf," Kennedy said.

"It was a pretty amazing breeze there were times where I chose a club and then went down two clubs in 30 seconds because the breeze had changed. So, you were really on edge and having to trust the breeze at that stage otherwise it made you look pretty silly."

Joohyung Kim at the New Zealand Golf Open. Photo / Photosport
Joohyung Kim at the New Zealand Golf Open. Photo / Photosport

Wairarapa's Harry Bateman is the best of the 26-strong New Zealand contingent in outright ninth place after carding a four-under 67 at Millbrook.

"It was tough out there - especially the front nine with the wind changing every hole. We got a bit lucky playing a couple of the harder holes downwind and just managed to get it round with no bogeys, so a nice start," Bateman said.

New Zealand's big hope Ryan Fox had an up-and-down day in the blustery conditions at The Hills, carding a two-under 70 to lie five shots off the lead.

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Fox got off to a flying start with birdies on the 10th (his first) the 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th to be five-under after eight holes. However, his round came unstuck on the second, his 11th. A chip from the bunker failed to bite on the green and slid off and from a potential birdie the 33-year-old made bogey and then dropped further shots on the next two holes to slip to two-under. He pulled a shot back on the sixth, his 15th but a wayward drive on the last proved costly and the subsequent bogey dropped him back to two-under.

"To be honest it felt like I played pretty good all day," Fox said. "I made three bogeys in a row and didn't feel I did much wrong. I could quite easily have got to six or seven-under." Fox said. "I hit a couple of bad shots towards the end and started fading [due to jet lag] which is understandable."

"It was a little tough coming home, the worst two holes I played were eight and nine (his last two holes). Mentally I just a little bit lost the plot. After the travel on an easier day sometimes your brain doesn't have to work as hard. Today it was such a grind the whole day. It kind of got me a little bit towards the end which is fair enough and I am still happy with 70 today."

Fox is pleased he played the Hills on the opening day. and is ready to play three straight rounds at Millbrook.

"It's a nice way to do it, it is always a bit tricky switching golf courses through the middle of the tournament. I am looking forward to playing Millbrook there are a lot of chances out there, and it is probably playing slightly easier than the Hills."