Date: November 29, 2007
Author: Dean Wedlake

Parry and Sheehan share overnight lead

It&aposs no surprise to see a golfer named Woods at the top of a leaderboard, but it&aposs a less-vaunted Englishman who shares the overnight lead of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open with two Australian hopefuls. Woods, one of the few European players making the long trek down to The Hills course near Queenstown, fired a four-under 68 in perfect morning conditions to share top spot with Craig Parry and Paul Sheehan. Because Thursday&aposs round was the first time a professional tournament had been played at The Hills, the trio earned the honour of becoming the first players to hold the course record. However, it could be argued that the most meritorious effort of the day went to fellow Aussie Steven Bowditch, who defied the blustery afternoon conditions to fire a three-under 69 that was worth just as many plaudits, if not more. Thursday dawned as a beautiful sunny day and a lot of the golf matched it. The lead changed many times during the morning but it was Parry and Sheehan who showed the consistency after both piecing together opening nines of four-under 32. However, right on the stroke of noon, a strong breeze took its hold and both could only come home in even par. That score was good enough to hold the lead for the rest of the day, with Parry&aposs post-round prediction that anyone matching his score &aposwouldn&apost have played all eighteen holes&apos ringing true. “It&aposs a course that when it isn&apost blowing, you can go out and shoot a low number; if the wind blows like it normally would, par&aposs a very good round,” Parry said. “We had great conditions out there earlier, the greens were reasonably receptive, the putting surfaces were very good and I played really well.” Aussies Rodney Booth, Gary Simpson, Michael Sim, Peter Fowler, Marc Leishman, David Bransdon, Paul Marantz and Bowditch join Kiwi Michael Long in a tie on three-under, with Bowditch in a position to forge ahead if the conditions repeat themselves on Friday. Marantz will be upset to finish on that score as he was once the outright leader at six-under, before three bogies in his last four holes saw him settle for 69. The best of the home players after day one, Long&aposs decision to ditch life on the American tours and concentrate on the Australasian scene seemed to pay immediate dividends. His 69 included an eagle on the par-5 1st where a perfect drive then a seven-iron to six feet gave his round the momentum it needed. “I&aposve always wanted to play well down here but sometimes your mind&aposs elsewhere,” Long said. “I&aposm probably a little more settled in I&aposve made the decision that I wanted to play down here. There&aposs nothing else on my plate so it&aposs probably a lot more simpler.” Simple might&aposve been what Australian Martin Doyle thought of the conditions when he nailed a hole-in-one on the 189m par-3 7th on his way to a 71, hitting a perfect 5-iron that he says &aposnever looked like missing&apos. A birdie on the final hole would&aposve lifted tournament favourite Daniel Chopra&aposs spirits but given that he teed off in the morning and played in idyllic conditions, a two-under 70 represented less than he would&aposve set out for. New Zealander Gareth Paddison, playing in the group in front of Chopra, also carded 70 and is a part of a group of only 38 players out of the full 156-strong field to be under-par. Among the vast majority is local favourite Michael Campbell, who had a shaky round with four bogies and three birdies but is far from out of the reckoning at one-over. Danny Lee, another New Zealander, is the best of the amateurs in the field after also signing for a 73. Bringing up the rear is Korean Juong Lee at 14-over, who will need a miracle to survive a cut that is expected to be around the four-over mark.