The 18thhole at the Clearwater Golf Club is widely regarded as one of the hardest finishing holes in the country. It wasn’t today for Australian professional Daniel Fox.



The 36-year-old delivered the shot of the BMW NZ Open hosted by Christchurch so far when he holed his nine iron from 143 yards for eagle to claim a one shot lead at the halfway stage.


It earned Fox a three under par 69 and the lead in the biggest event in his career. 


“It was lucky, but it is better to be lucky than good,” joked the likeable Aussie at his first ever press conference following his spectacular finishing shot on the notorious par four.


“I was hitting out of the rough all day so I guess I knew what it was going to do. I was just trying to carry the bunker and in the air I thought that had half a chance. To see it go in was pretty unreal.”


It was an unreal sort of afternoon at the Clearwater Golf Club where the wind died right down and the lead changed hands multiple times on the closing stretch.


In the end Fox held a one shot lead over Australian professional Ryan Haller (71) and amateur Jake Higginbottom  (70) and three Kiwis Waikato's Mathew Perry, Gareth Paddison and Ryan Fox are in a share of fourth place, two shots back from the leader.   


Australian amateur Higginbottom, who finished as the leading amateur at the event in 2011, was the clubhouse leader before Fox’s spectacular finish. Moments before he had his own dramatic finish on 18 but for entirely different reasons.


The Australian rep, who had a birdied spree to get to a three under par total, slipped with his approach shot on the final hole and hooked it left into the water. He got up and down for a fine bogey and could see the lighter side of the final hole once he had signed his card.


“It was not a great shot in there,” the 19-year-old said with a smile. “It was a bad swing. I slipped a little bit but it was a bad shot. But it was a good round. I played well and hope I can continue with that through the weekend.”


Perry, who is playing his first event as a professional, enjoyed flying beneath the radar on the other side of the course. The former NZ Amateur Champion carded a one under par 71 to be in a share of fourth place.


“The pressure is just the same as an amateur event, it doesn’t feel any different,” said the 25-year-old.


“I feel like I am playing solidly. I didn’t look at the leaderboard all day to be honest. I just wanted to stay calm and focus on what I am doing. I am enjoying my first event as a professional and it doesn’t feel like too big of a step up. I feel like I am ready.”


His former New Zealand amateur team-mate Fox is also in a share of fourth after a one over par 73. Fox said it was a strange round where he played the par threes “terribly”.


“I made four bogeys on the par threes,” said the 25-year-old.


“I had a straight shank on 16 and pretty close to it on 9. I haven’t had a shank in a tournament in over three years. I don’t know where that came from. Apart from that the rest of the round was pretty reasonable.


“I am obviously in contention which is great. The idea is just to stay in touch with the leaders and hopefully on the back nine on Sunday make a charge and make a run for the title.”


Wellington professional Paddison is the third of the Kiwi players who are two shots from the lead of Fox after he carded an even par 72 in the fine conditions.


“It was a disappointing day to be honest,” said the 32-year-old. “I felt like I was playing really nicely on the front nine and I made back to back birdies and had some good momentum. I hit a really strange shot on the ninth into the hazard and made a good up and down for bogey and then made a really bad bogey on the 10th. From there I made all pars coming home and it was a bit flat. But you know I am still in it.”


Also still in it is Greg Turner. The two time champion, who his playing his first New Zealand Open in 10 years, carded a one under par 71 to be in a share of 17thplace only four shots back.


“I learned today that there is still life in the old dog,” said the 49-year-old.


“It could have been two or three shots better but I am very happy to be in this position and who know what could happen on the weekend. I have surprised myself so far.”


They will all look to chase down Fox who said he is comfortable as the leader.


“It is all well and good at this stage but there is a long way to go as we are only halfway through the tournament. Without doubt this is the biggest tournament I have ever led but I prefer to be leading.


“I hope I haven’t used up all my luck today.”


A total of 68 players will be feeling lucky as they made the cut at a seven over par total of 151.





    1 Jones, Samuel 115.78
    2 Lee, Jang Hyun 83.56
    3 Zheng, Jimmy 73.73
    4 Ford, Jayden 66.16
    5 Bai, Joshua 66.10
    1 Chung, Darae 260.13
    2 Son, Yeonsoo 110.19
    3 Xu, Fiona 93.60
    4 Im, Amy 69.80
    5 Kang, Sumin 69.60