Australian takes New Zealand lead after nearly quitting golf one year ago.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) -- Australia's Steven Bowditch shot an 8-under-par 64 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the New Zealand Open.
The 21-year-old Bowditch, who almost quit playing the sport a year ago, took advantage of calm morning conditions to come within a stroke of the course record at the Gulf Harbor Country Club.
Bowditch, who had 10 birdies and two bogeys, held a one-stroke lead over five players. Swedish Ryder Cup representative Joakim Haeggman, in breezier afternoon conditions, was 8-under after 17 holes but over-hit his approach to the 18th, dropped a shot and finished in a second-place tie.
He joined countrymen Chris Hanell and Niclas Fasth, Scotland's Alastair Forsyth and Australian Simon Nash.
Bowditch fully exploited the conditions, shooting 31 on the opening nine with birdies at the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh holes and then coming home in 33.
A bogey at the tricky par-4 14th ended a run of four birdies and another at 18 cost Bowditch a share of Scott Verplank's seven-year-old course record. Verplank shot a 63 during the World Cup of Golf in 1998.
"I got off to a good start, birdied the first couple, which gave me a bit of momentum, and I just kept it going," Bowditch said.
Bowditch wasn't satisfied with his game 12 months ago and was on the verge of quitting. He returned to the Australasian tour late last year and a good run encouraged him to aim for a European card.
"I'm finding golf pretty easy at the moment, better than the last few weeks," Bowditch said.
This year's 88th New Zealand Open is being co-sanctioned for the first time by the European and Australasian PGA Tours, and has drawn 65 European Tour players.
Australian Craig Parry, last week's Heineken Classic winner, finished among a group of 19 players at 4-under.