Steven Alker has made a strong start to his highly-anticipated return to the New Zealand Open, carving out a share of the lead in the opening round this afternoon.
Alker carded a six-under 65 at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown today to take a share of the lead alongside four others, including fellow Kiwi Kit Bittle.
Starting his first tournament on home soil since the 2019 NZ Open on the back nine, Alker racked up seven birdies across his round, including an impressive tap-in finish after he almost holed-out his approach on the ninth hole from around 100m out.
"I hit a lot of nice iron shots today, gave myself some good chances, and I putted well, too," Alker said.
Alker's only blemish came on the 348m par-four 15th which he bogeyed after a three-putt.
“Reasonably straight, and I missed it on the left [with the second], I just lacked a little speed and dived under the hole. It kind of got me a little bit. Apart from that, it [putting] was pretty good,” he said.
“Overall, I think the putting was most pleasing, I just made some putts that I should have made.”
Alker did concede he felt he could have done more in the prime conditions though.
”I kind of felt that I just left a little bit out there because there wasn’t much wind today," he added.
"I didn’t get the par fives on my back nine, the front nine at the Remarkables, so that was a little bit disappointing.”
Bittle may hold the same chip as he could have taken an outright lead over the field had he converted a short putt on 18 but instead remains tied with Alker as well as Japan’s Yosuke Asaji, Thai golfer Gunn Charoenkul and Australian Tom Power Horan.