Kennedy and Cusdin share NZ Open lead

Queensland's Brad Kennedy and New Zealander Jim Cusdin lead the field at the completion of the opening round of the BMW New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.

Kennedy's opening round of 68 in the excellent morning conditions on the demanding layout was enough to give him the early lead and, as the breezes turned to winds through the late morning and into the afternoon, his good start would see him at least retain a share of the lead into day two.

Cusdin, playing in those more difficult afternoon conditions, took the lead from Kennedy when he raced to the turn in 31, a nine which included just 10 putts. He actually recorded eight one putt greens in succession during that stretch.

Cusdin appeared as if he might fall back into the pack when he double bogeyed the 13th when finding the right hand rough from the tee with an iron and took four to get down from just off the green and followed with a bogey at the reachable par five 14th.

To his credit, however, Cusdin, a winner this season on the Charles Tour in Tauranga in New Zealand, fought his way back to birdie the 15th and the 17th and all of a sudden he was back sharing the lead with Kennedy.

Kennedy has just returned from his rookie season on the Japan Golf Tour, a season which has proven to be a successful one having comfortably retained his playing privileges. In fact, Kennedy, who finished in 29th position on the JGT money list, only narrowly missed making it into the elite 28 player field for this week's Golf Nippon Series JT Cup such was the quality of his play this year.

What was bad luck for Kennedy in that regard however was good luck for this event and might yet be for him as he is a quality player and his addition to this field has already proven its worth. There would be little surprise if he was to go and win this week.

The highlight of his year was when finishing runner-up at the Canon Open but here were three other top ten finishes and after several years battling for European and Asian Tour success he now appears to have found his niche in Japan.

"The key to my round was just staying patient," said the 37-year-old. "I got it going early on when it was really calm and then the wind picked up on my final few holes and it was a much tougher. I have played here a few times and I enjoy playing in the wind.

"Coming from Queensland and playing a lot in Asia I am used to these conditions and I am happy with my start.

"I really enjoy coming back to New Zealand, I have some good mates that live here on the course who I am staying with and it is good catching up with them for a few beers and a few glasses of Pinot. I love coming back to New Zealand to play and it's nice to be in contention."

26 year old Cusdin was quick to accredit his comeback after the mid-round hiccup to the experience he gained earlier this year by winning the Tauranga Open, a Charles Tour event in New Zealand, which, even though a lesser event, gave him experience in contention.

"When that happened (referring to his three dropped shots in two holes) I said to my caddy that I just needed to stay cool," said the man from the Waikato in the central North Island. "I felt like was swinging it well and just wanted to stay cool."

Cusdin hit his approach at the 15th 8 feet behind the flag and was back at 3 under and just one of the lead and then all but holed his approach at the 17th to get back on even terms with Kennedy.

Tomorrow the pair will reverse their opening day tee times with Cusdin having the opportunity to (hopefully for him) experience the better morning conditions.

Cusdin is hoping to move to Melbourne next year having played just in New Zealand this year. "My girlfriend and I are planning on moving over there and with at least conditional status there through my New Zealand efforts this year I will play over there. Hopefully this week might see me with even better status."

At three under are New South Wales golfer, Leigh McKechnie, and New Zealander, Doug Holloway.

McKechnie is a former winner of the New South Wales Open and plays mainly on the OneAsia and Australasian Tours while Holloway has plied his trade on the Sunshine Tour in Queensland in recent times with the occasional foray into Asia.

At 2 under and two from the lead is a group which includes former winner Craig Parry and the last New Zealander to win the event when victorious in 2003, Mahal Pearce.

Already the cut appears as if it could be as high as six or seven over dependant on tomorrow's winds but, whatever it is, this tournament set-up is already displaying a far higher degree of difficulty than that used previous PGA Tour of Australasia events at Clearwater.


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Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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