Trio leads HSBC NZ PGA Championship
BY iseekgolf.com | Web.com Tour | 2008 NZ PGA Championship | Round One | 14 Feb 2008
Canadian David Hearn and Americans, Darron Stiles and Matt Bettencourt, fired six-under 66’s to share the lead after the opening round of the $US650,000 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater today.
The leaderboard had a distinctly American look with three professionals from the United States D A Points, Rick Price and Dave Schultz appreciating the mainly benign conditions to card 67s.
Six players were on 68, including the best of the 17 Kiwis, Doug Holloway, while 64 players in the 156-strong field bettered the par of 72.
Hearn picked up from where he left off last year with another string of birdies. In the final round in 2007 Hearn had seven successive on the front nine in his tournament record 29, seven-under par, for the half.
This time he teed off on the 10th and he reeled off four in a row starting at the 12th to turn in four-under 32. His faultless display continued on the front nine with a birdie at the second and he signed off in style by holing his bunker shot for a birdie at the par-3 ninth.
Hearn, 28, said the flying start was the right tonic after missing the cut in the two opening Nationwide Tour events at Panama and Mexico. He said that was typical of him as he returned home to Canada in the winter and practiced little.
“I hit it pretty close and most of my putts were from 10 to 15 feet and I rolled in a few in a row. My shortish birdie putt was from four feet.”
Hearn is on his third visit to Clearwater having missed the cut in 2006 and finishing tied 22nd last year.
For Stiles, a 34-year-old with four previous Nationwide Tour wins to his credit, 66 represented his best start “for a long time, period.”
He had the outright lead, at seven-under, after 12 holes, but the notorious par-4 13th of 413m trapped him.
“My drive ended in the rough, I hacked it to the green and missed a five-foot bogey putt.”
The double-bogey dropped him to five-under, but he bounced back with his eighth birdie at 14 and parred in.
Stiles said he could have finished eight or nine-under par but missed several putts from inside 3m. But he was not too dissatisfied after needing only 25 putts and holing three from more than 6m including one from that range for birdie at his first hole.
Bettencourt, 32, holed a 3.5m birdie putt at the last late in the day to join Hearn and Stiles as clubhouse leader. He, too, got to seven-under but he double-bogeyed the 17th before repairing some of the damage with his last-hole birdie.
He had six birdies and an eagle at the 10th when “I chipped in from 95 feet”.
Bettencourt hit 17 greens in regulation and said his iron play was perfect although his driving was suspect.
A group of six players is holding a share of 7th place at four-under, including Aussies David McKenzie, Matthew Zions and Ashley Hall with 24-year-old New Zealander Doug Holloway the leading local also tied 6th.
Michael Campbell, in his first Clearwater appearance, was four-under after 15 after opening with two birdies and having four more interspersed with two bogeys. But the round lost some gloss when he dropped shots at 16 and 18.
Two time champion Peter O’Malley was 2 under for the day whilst recent Mexico Open winner and Nationwide Tour Money Leader Victorian Jarrod Lyle finished a further shot back.
The field of 156 from nine different countries will be reduced to the top 60 and ties after the second round tomorrow.
Source – HSBC