Two months after his first win in a four-round professional tournament, New Zealander Jim Cusdin fired a four-under 68 to lead his national golf open by a shot after the opening round yesterday.
Cusdin admitted being nervous as he closed out a two-shot victory in the low-key Tauranga Open in September, but he conquered nerves yesterday to share the lead with Australia’s Brad Kennedy after the first round of the New Zealand Open.
Players had to cope with earthquake damage to the par-72 Clearwater course in the first major sports event held in Christchurch since a Feb. 22 tremor that killed 182 people. Cusdin had eight birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a mixed opening round, while Kennedy had five birdies and one bogey. Kennedy is chasing his first professional victory since last year’s West Australian Open.
The leading pair held a one-stroke advantage over New Zealander Doug Holloway and Australia’s Leigh McKechnie, who shot 69s. They were a further stroke ahead of a group of three headed by Australian veteran Craig Parry, a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour.
Parry had three birdies and a bogey in a 70, a score matched by his compatriot Nicholas Cullen and New Zealand’s Mahal Pearce, the 2003 New Zealand Open champion.
Of the 144-strong field, only 26 players were able to match or break par in blustery conditions. Six were tied in eighth place at one-under and a further 13 were even after the first round.
“I got it going early on when it was really calm and then when the wind picked up on my final few holes, it was much tougher,” Kennedy said. “The key to my round was just staying patient. I have played here a few times and I enjoy playing in the wind. Coming from Queensland and playing a lot in Asia, I am used to these conditions, so I am happy with my start.”