Australians Brad Kennedy, Dimitrios Papadatos and Matthew Griffin all have one thing in common; their names are etched into the New Zealand Open trophy.
After two rounds in the 2017 ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open all three former champions are poised to strike on the weekend.
Kennedy, who won in 2011, fired an incredible 9-under 62 at Millbrook Resort, making birdie at six of his last seven holes.
“It was awesome, it is nice to play like that. I had a good rhythm going into the back-9, coming through 15 to 18, I had some nice full numbers,” said Kennedy.
“The greens are just pure here so they are great to putt on. I birdied my last four holes.”
Not to be out done his playing partner, New Zealander Michael Hendry also put himself into contention with a 6-under 65, the pair spurring each other on.
“It is good having a playing partner rolling putts in as well; it allows both of us to start rolling,” added Kennedy.
“We had at least 30 birdies between us in 36 holes, so it was a good four ball.
“I think it will be a different story on the weekend. Hopefully the wind gets up, I like playing in the wind, it would make it a bit more difficult and pin positions will be tough.”
Following the morning round Kennedy is now leading the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open at 16-under the card.
“It doesn’t matter where I am, I just have to stay aggressive. Anytime you try and be conservative, a course like this will come and get you,” continued Kennedy.
“It’s nice knowing that I have won the Open before, at a different course, to be able to win it a second time would be fantastic.
“Having won it before allows me not to press too hard; guys who haven’t won it before and are in contention will be trying to win the first one.”
“It’s a great National Open to win and we will all be having a go.”
Playing at The Hills, 2014 champion Dimitrios Papadatos continues to build towards a big weekend, the New South Welshman is tied 4th after rounds of 63 and 68.
“I hit a lot of good shots and didn’t really make many putts, but I’m still really happy with the result,” said Papadatos.
“I’m looking forward to going back to Millbrook tomorrow in contention. I have some great memories here; I had definitely the best win of my career here so I’m looking forward to giving it another shake this year.”
Defending champion Matthew Griffin has showed no signs of jet lag as he fired rounds of 66 and 67 to be tied 6th on 10-under the card.
He is aiming to become the first person since Corey Pavin in the 1980’s to successfully defend the New Zealand Open title.
“I am surprised; I’m feeling really good, a lot better than I thought I would be at this stage. I had two good night sleep which was important,” said Griffin, who flew from the WGC – Mexico Championship to Queenstown on Wednesday.
“I’m sure I’ll get a little tired as the weekend goes on but if I’m in the mix that will give me some good energy.
“I have only flown in the day before a tournament once before and I actually won that one, so hopefully a repeat of that.
“There are a lot of good players at the top of the leaderboard so it’s going to be tough. But if I can put together a weekend like last year I’ll be right there.
While the Australians are enjoying their time in New Zealand the locals can’t be overlooked. Ben Campbell leads the charge, outright second on 15-under the card while he is joined in the top-10 by Hendry, Brad Shilton and Josh Geary.
The afternoon field is now on course.
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