Queenstown, February 28: Two late bogeys pegged him back but Ajeetesh Sandhu did enough to emerge as the best-placed Indian at Tied 25 after the opening round of the 100th New Zealand Open here on Thursday.
On course for a fine opening round, Sandhu dropped two late bogeys in the last four holes to finish with three-under 69. While Sandhu was placed Tied-25th, Shiv Kapur and Khalin Joshi shot two-under 70 each to be Tied-42nd and Viraj Madappa (73) was Tied-110th -- all playing at the Par-72 Hills course.
Chikkarangappa (73) and Rahil Gangjee (71) were Tied-59th and 87th respectively while playing at the Par-71 Millbrook Resort course.
Asian Tour rookie Zach Murray got off to a flying start after signing for a flawless eight-under-par 63 at the Millbrook Resort to grab a share of the opening round lead. He fired eight birdies to sit atop the leaderboard alongside Japan's Ryuko Tokimatsu and Harry Bateman of New Zealand, who finished strongly to shoot matching 64s.
Sandhu playing in the same foursome as Kapur, besides two amateurs including former Kiwi cricket captain, Stephen Fleming, started superbly with four birdies on front nine. He added a fifth on 10th but later bogeyed 15th and 18th.
Kapur had three birdies on first five holes before hitting a roadblock with a double on sixth and bogey on seventh. On the back nine he made some amends with birdies on 13th, 15th and 17th, but dropped a shot on 14th and finished with 70.
Joshi had four birdies against two bogeys in his 70. Kodai Ichihara of Japan, a two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, reeled in five consecutive birdies in his closing six holes at The Hills to trail the leading trio by two shots in outright fourth place at the approx USD 850,000 event.
After turning in 37 at The Hills, Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat made his move by sinking six birdies in his back-nine to sign for a 67 and grab a share of fifth place. Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand carded a 69 at The Hills to tie in 25th place while defending champion Daniel Nisbet of Australia signed for a 70 at Millbrook Resort for tied-59th place.
There are a total of 152 professionals and 152 amateurs taking part in the event. The first two rounds will alternate between the par-71 course at Millbrook Resort and the par-72 course at The Hills. A cut will be made after 36 holes and the top 60 players plus ties will go on to compete in the final two rounds at The Hills.