Both players recorded rounds of five under par 66 to lead by one over New Zealander Daniel Pearce in the PGA Tour of Australasia event with another two shots back to a group of five New Zealanders at 2 under par including one of the pre-tournament favourites Michael Hendry.
“To score that in the first couple of weeks of the year is very pleasing, like most of us I don’t think we’ve done much practice, I know I certainly haven’t," Fowler told the PGA Tour of Australasia after his round.
“It was a nice fresh morning and I think we got the best of it today. I drove the ball well, hit a lot of great iron shots and my putting today was the best it’s been in the last 12 months so I’m pretty happy.”
58 year old Fowler, now a New Zealand citizen, is a former (1983) Australian Open Champion who has achieved a lot of success in senior golf in addition to his multiple wins as a regular tour player.
Austin Bautista shares the opening round lead at Wainui Golf Club near Auckland. (Photo: PGA of Australia)
Bautista has hardly set the world on fire as a pro and was forced to return to the Tour School and did not regain full status but given the lack of depth in this week’s field he was able to secure a start.
He was, though, a good amateur, winning events including the Federal Amateur and if he can earn enough starts in 2018 he has a chance to build on his experience.
Pearce, who sits just one of the pace, is a talented New Zealander who last year won the Queensland PGA Championship and finished 5th at the Fiji International.
The disappointment of the opening round was the three over par round of 74 by the leading world ranked player in the field, Ryan Fox, who was unable to recover from three double bogeys and finds himself in a share of 38th place.
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