New Zealand and Australian players alike took advantage of the Remuera Golf Club layout to shoot low numbers in the first round of the Holden NZ PGA Championship.
Playing in the morning field, New Zealander Mark Brown gave the Kiwi fans something to cheer about early on. Opening with an eagle, Brown went on to fire a 7-under 65.
While it looked like Brown would retain the outright lead overnight, New South Welshman James Nitties got hot late in the back-9 firing three consecutive birdies starting at the par-5 13th and followed it up with an eagle on the par-5 16th.
Nitties also fired a 7-under 65 and the pair will share the lead heading into the second round tomorrow.
Despite struggling with his swing Queenslander Brett Rankin surprised even himself, putting together a bogey free round of 6-under 66 thanks to a solid day with his irons.
He is joined in a tie for third by fellow Queenslander Tim Hart. Renowned as a big hitter the 26-year-old played a more conservative style of golf, staying patient to find his seven birdies with just a lone bogey making its way onto his scorecard.
Rounding out the top-5 on 5-under 67 are Aaron Townsend and Anthony Houston who almost aced the par-3 8th hole at Remuera Golf Club.
The second round of the Holden NZ PGA Championship will tee off tomorrow at 7.45am with James Nitties in action at 8.10am and Mark Brown on course at 1pm.
Quick Quotes:Mark Brown, 7-under 65, T1
"I eagled the first which really set the tone. All the way through I was picking up birdies, it was just really steady."
"For me if I can get the putter working a bit it always helps. I certainly rolled in a few today which was nice."
"We don't play it a lot so we don't have the home course advantage that everyone thinks but it suits me well."
"Last year it got pretty dry and bouncy to hold some of those fairways. Being it a little bit softer those balls are now staying in the fairway and it is playing a bit easier. It suits my game well so hopefully that carries on."
James Nitties, 7-under 65, T1
"It was a pretty boring day and then I just seemed to catch fire at the end and made about three birdies and an eagle on the back nine, so that's definitely going to make dinner taste a little nicer."
"I actually thought the scores would be a little better. I played pretty solid golf, but I didn't do anything that special. I made a couple of 12 footers and birdied all the par-5', so it's surprising I'm sitting on top of the leader board."
"I would take 7-under any day of the week of course, it was just one of those days. I'm sure there's a lot of guys who hit it like I did, that just did not convert a lot of birdies, and shot 2 or 3-under."
Brett Rankin, 6-under 66, T3
"It was bit ugly from tee to green so I think I got away with murder to be honest."
"I've been fighting my swing for four or five days. I'm not really sure what is going on. The bad ones I got away with today and I hit my irons fairly decent, made a couple of putts and sure enough 66 … who would have thought."
Tim Hart, 6-under 66, T3
"It was a good day. I just stayed patient all day, scores were definitely out there to be had. I holed some good par saves, so it was just a good day all round."
"I've learned over time that you can get the ball around just hitting irons so that's what I tried to do today. I attacked where I could and took the opportunities when they presented."
Aaron Townsend, 5-under 67, T5
"It's definitely a bit of a strategy course, you can't get too carried away, it can get you on every hole."
"You can't be too aggressive, but there's some good young players who hit the ball a long way, the length is not going to worry them."
"I always like coming here; New Zealand is a great place and I'm loving what's happened to this golf course. They've had a few new greens put in, the place is looking fantastic. The bad weather is behind us, so it can only get better.
Anthony Houston, 5-under 67, T5
"I remember last year I missed the cut because I just took the course on too much hitting a lot of drivers. This year I put in a two iron, and I have just hit it everywhere. Even if you've got a few more clubs in if you're hitting good shots, your hitting it from the middle of the fairway, so there are lots of birdie chances."
On his near hole in one: "I knew it was good the whole way but I didn't know it was that good. When we got up there the pitch mark was an inch from the hole, so I can imagine it was pretty close, but still a good feeling."
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