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Campbell blitzes NZ Open first-round field

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/03/2017
Campbell carded a 10-under 61 thanks to a blistering eight under 28 on the final nine holes. © Getty Images Campbell carded a 10-under 61 thanks to a blistering eight under 28 on the final nine holes.

Kiwi golfer Ben Campbell has bagged an eagle and two birdies in the final three holes of his first round at the New Zealand Open to secure a course record 10-under-par 61.

The Masterton-born Campbell eagled hole No.16 at Millbrook Resort, followed by birdies on 17 and 18, to finish tournament leader after day one.

Thursday's spectacular finish capped off a stunning back nine for the 25-year-old, producing an eight-under 28 to be two strokes ahead.

The career-best round was made all the more impressive by Campbell's long absence from golf in 2016, having suffered a mystery illness.

He kicked off his solid form with second place in last week's NZPGA Championship in Palmerston North before heading south to his Queenstown base.

"I played pretty solidly out there, especially the back nine where I had 28, which is a first for me," Campbell said.

"I bounced back well and just got it rolling."

Kiwi Brad Hilton shares second place at eight under with Australian Dimitrios Papadatos.

Bogey-free Papadatos, the 2014 Open champion, carded an eagle and six birdies to head Australia's contingent with Scott Barr, Deyen Lawson and Brad Kennedy a shot back at seven under.

"I started well and kept going, including holing out for an eagle from 105 metres which helped me out a bit," Papadatos said.

"Conditions favoured the players today."

Singapore-based Barr, who played at The Hills course, was happy with his putting performance on a smooth southern Kiwi green.

He was surprised to secure a seven-under-par round.

"I usually think I'm an okay putter but you get on greens that roll true and you have a really good day," Barr said.

On the Kiwi front, professional Michael Hendry also nabbed a seven under, while Waikato-based rookie Luke Toomey shot a six-under 66.

Top-ranked Kiwi Ryan Fox failed to match expectations by securing a four under, while Australian defending champion Matthew Griffin is six under.

"It's one of the most-clinical rounds I've ever played, to be honest," Toomey said in just his second professional appearance.

After completing their first rounds on Thursday, the field will switch courses for Friday's second round.

The third and fourth rounds will be played at the more-difficult Millbrook.

No Kiwi has won the Open since 2003.

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