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Aussies Griffin, Hend tied for lead at New Zealand Open

3 minute read

Australian golfers Matthew Griffin and Scott Hend sit atop the leaderboard after the opening round of the New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort.

MATTHEW GRIFFIN. Picture: Will Russell/Getty Images

A hot start to the New Zealand Open from Matthew Griffin has given the Australian further cause to rethink his plan of transitioning away from life as a full-time golfer.

The 40-year-old father of two carded an opening round of seven-under 64, including eight birdies and a sole bogey, on The Remarkables course at Millbrook Resort on Thursday.

It left him tied for the lead with countryman Scott Hend, who wound back the clock with a 64, including seven birdies in an 11-hole stretch, and later joked he was in denial about turning 50.

The pair were a shot clear of Australians Ben Wharton, Jay MacKenzie, Kevin Yuan and Sam Brazel, South Korean duo JungHyun Um and Soonsang Hong, Thailand's Gunn Charoenkul and New Zealander Ben Campbell on a warm, still day in Arrowtown conducive to low scoring.

Campbell drained a long eagle putt at the par-five 18th to vault into a tie for third.

Griffin's eight tournament victories as a professional golfer include the 2016 NZ Open.

He started the 2023-24 Australasian Tour season thinking it would likely be his last as a full-time golfer.

A commanding victory at The Heritage tournament in Victoria in January - his first in eight years - was a welcome confidence boost.

And were Griffin to convert his hot start into another win at the $NZ2 million ($A1.885 million) New Zealand Open, a major change of plan may well be in order.

"I felt like I had been playing all right the last couple of years, but I hadn't put the results on the board," he said.

"We've got another event in a couple of weeks at The National, and after that I'll be looking after the kids at home for a few months during the year.

"But with the Asian Tour co-sanctioning (the NZ Open), if I can be at the right end of the leaderboard on Sunday you never know, it might be a bit more golf.

"... I've got two young kids, and when you're travelling a lot it puts the pressure on.

"You want to make sure you are playing well and making enough money to make it worthwhile.

"If you're just breaking even or making a little bit, it's a bit hard to justify."

Hend has played all around the world in a long professional career, with most of his success coming in Asia.

"The aim this week is to have fun, to try be there on Sunday with a chance to win," said the 50-year-old, who finished in a tie for 12th in the 2023 NZ Open.

"Last year I had an opportunity, then just didn't hole any putts on Sunday."

Last year's Order of Merit (OOM) winner David Micheluzzi and his fellow Australian and playing partner Brett Coletta were among a group tied for 16th at four-under.

But this year's OOM pacesetter Kazuma Kobori from New Zealand has plenty of work to do if he is to make the halfway cut after opening with a scratchy one-over 72.

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