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New Zealand Open: Lee and Blyth share the lead in Queenstown

March 1, 2014 Golf Tourism No Comments Email Email

One of the best putting displays ever seen in a New Zealand Open has robbed a Kiwi golfer of the outright lead at the halfway stage of the 94th National Open in Queenstown.

Richard Lee played superbly in the cold to claim the lead on day two of the New Zealand Open in Queenstown.

Richard Lee played superbly in the cold to claim the lead on day two of the New Zealand Open in Queenstown.

Auckland professional Richard Lee and Australian Adam Blyth, who had only 19 putts, shared the honours at nine-under par on a day that will be remembered for brutally-cold weather conditions.

The 40-year-old Lee jumped into the outright lead when he carded an impressive bogey free, five-under par 67 at The Hills.

That total was matched late in the day over the road at Millbrook Resort by Queensland professional Blyth, who carded an incredible seven-under par 65, to claim his place in the final group.

The pair have a two stroke lead over rookie Hamilton pro Mathew Perry (69) and Australian Dimitrios Papadatos (69) in the NZ$900,000 PGA Tour of Australasia event.

West Australian Matt Jager (69), who won the NZ Amateur in succession in 2009 and 2010, is tied fifth and Kiwi hopefuls Mark Brown (72), Ryan Fox (69) and David Klein (70) are four shots back in a share of seventh.

New Zealand No.1 Michael Hendry made a clutch par on 18 to make the cut by one shot but American professional Rocco Mediate (74) wasn’t as fortunate as he double-bogeyed the last to miss by two strokes.

But the biggest talking point on day one was the brutal weather.

Adam Blyth made only 19 putts today to share the lead of the NZ Open

Adam Blyth made only 19 putts today to share the lead of the NZ Open

Ice-cold southwesterly winds swept over the courses and the sight of fresh snow on The Remarkables, and the single-figure temperatures, confirmed the swift seasonal change.

Lee, playing alongside Phil Keoghan (the host of The Amazing Race), said consistent play and taking his chances for birdie was the key to impressive round.

“I’m very happy, especially with the inclement weather coming in,” said Lee.

Lee, who earned his place in the field through finishing inside the top 10 on the NZ PGA Order of Merit, feels like he has unfinished business with the National Open.

The man with a million nicknames was the second best Kiwi at Clearwater, behind Mark Brown, when he carded a 69 in the final round to finish fifth, four shots back from Australian Jake Higginbottom.

“For any Kiwi, you’d love to win the New Zealand Open,” he said.

“I was really disappointed [at the last NZ Open]. I finished fifth and I hit it in 10 water hazards, so there’s 10 penalty shots that killed me. I’d love to win it. It would be the best thing.”

Lee, who is in the process of completing the Bridging Program with the PGA of New Zealand to be a teaching pro, stopped short of saying winning the NZ Open would be life changing.

His strategy for the final two rounds would be weather dependent.

“If I shoot two rounds in the 60s, I’ll be rapt.”

Keoghan might not be rapt that Lee didn’t really know who he was. But he played his part in Lee’s heroics and the Kiwi-born celebrity gave him a big high five when he sunk a 15 foot putt for birdie on his last hole.

“I’ve actually never watched the show,” Lee said of The Amazing Race. ”Don’t tell him that. Great guy, and he probably helped chill me out.”

Also feeling pretty chilled out was 32-year-old Blyth who finished birdie – birdie to cap off a special day.

The highlight of his round came when he holed out on the par 5 15th for birdie from 65m with a 58 degree wedge.

“I put my 3 wood into the left water, and had to come back, I dropped it and then I holed it for birdie so it was a pretty special day. “

Blyth, who has played on the Asian Tour, likened the cold to playing the in the British Open of 2008 at Royal Birkdale saying: “when that breeze got up it really chilled you.”

But it didn’t stop him sinking putt after putt as he made nine birdies and two bogeys.

“I have to count up my putts but I putted unbelievable today so it was pretty good. It was pretty silly.

“It was one of those days that you dream of where everything goes right. I’m really happy and it will be good tomorrow to be in the last group.”

Blyth said he has felt good on the practice range back home but nothing had shown him that an exceptional round was coming.

“I felt quietly confident that if I stayed patient that it could happen,” he said,

“I have come into this week with a sense of enjoying the week, it’s an amazing place to be and trying to win and do well. So far it’s coming off so I think I have to keep to that attitude and not really worry where I finish in the tournament but I am quite happy so far to see these results. “

Also happy with the results so far was rookie professional Perry.

The 27-year-old, who was one of three tournament invites to the event, couldn’t remember playing in conditions that demanding in Queenstown.

“Teeing off one, we got the first 10 holes out of the way and then the back nine’s tough and the wind picked up and when that rain came in it was something else,” said Perry.

“It got pretty challenging there so to be done and make a good par at the last was pleasing.”

The former NZ Amateur Champion wasn’t surprised to be in touch of the lead after two rounds.

Perry is based in Melbourne and said a good finish in a PGA Tour of Australasia event would mean a lot for his career going forward.

“It would help out a lot. It’s a quality field this week and it’s a tournament that’s wide open. There’s no real favourite and there’s a lot of quality guys that can contend so a top 10 would be good.”

A total of 71 professionals made the cut on a one-over par total.

No amateurs made the cut. Southland’s Vaughan McCall (80) and Canterbury’s Jordan Bakermans (74) finished tied on a five-over par total to share the Bledisloe Cup honours.

Meanwhile in the New Zealand Pro-Am Championship, Australian professional Brody Ninyette and Sam Hamilton lead the best-ball format by nine shots on an incredible 25-under par total.

The New Zealand Open will be played at The Hills for the final two rounds with a Kiwi and an Aussie the players to beat after two rounds of starkly contrasting weather.

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