Korean teenage golf Kim star leads NZ Open

Three Australians lie a shot back in second place after teenage Korean golf sensation Joohyung Kim grabbed the first-round lead the NZ Open.

27-Feb-2020 By Daniel Gilhooly, Australian Associated Press

Korean teenage golfer Joohyung Kim lived up to hype to lead after the opening round of the New Zealand Open, keeping a clutch of Australians at bay in wild conditions near Queenstown.

Seventeen-year-old Kim carded a seven-under 64 on Thursday at Millbrook Resort, one of two courses being used for the 101st edition of the Australasian Tour event.

Touted as one of the brightest talents to emerge from Asia, Kim sits a stroke clear of Australians Ben Kennedy, Ben Eccles and Wade Ormsby.

Former winner Kennedy was the only golfer among the leading foursome to play on The Hills course.

Like Kim, he completed his round in the morning, when conditions were at their most unpredictable.

Queenslander Kennedy said it took sharp powers of concentration to adjust to some dramatic changes in wind direction, mixed with bursts of sporadic showers.

At one point, the 2011 champion thought hail was imminent.

"It was a totally different breeze to what we are used to ... a totally different golf course," he said.

"Luckily I didn't have a practice round this week so I just went on what I knew and it was a whole new experience. It was fun, I even got a chance to get home in two on 17 (par-five), so that was fun."

Kim burst into the limelight last November when he become the second youngest player to bag a title on the Asian Tour, winning the Panasonic Open in India.

A subsequent fourth placing at the Singapore open pushed his world ranking to 130th, which has dipped slightly since.

He was delighted to emerge with six birdies and an eagle on the par-five 10th hole given the unpredictable weather.

"I managed myself really well and gave myself lots of good chances and made some good putts too," Kim said.

"For tomorrow, I just have to play without any expectations and play the way I did today. A lot will also have to depend on the wind too."

Other well-placed Australians are Lucas Herbert and Terry Pilkadaris in a share of fifth on five-under while defending champion Zach Murray is a further two strokes back.

Murray's round was meritorious given he had only arrived in New Zealand's South Island on Wednesday, having arrived on Wednesday morning after travelling soon after a strong showing at the WCG Mexico Championship.


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