Sung Jin Yeo set Gulf Harbour Country Club alight this morning, firing his career-best round to lead the NZPGA Championship after the first round.

Unbelievably, nine under was slightly disappointing for the 22-year-old, who recorded both a double and a bogey in his scintillating opener but was still good enough to equal the best round of his life.

He knew something special was brewing after he made the turn in eight under. Yeo opened with a par on the first before hitting a hot stretch where he made five birdies and an eagle from the second to the eighth and then parred the ninth.

The North Harbour professional made further birdies on 11 and 12 before dropping his first shot at the tricky par 3 13th, but bounced back to consecutive birdies on 14 and 15 to get to 11 under and looked likely of beating the best round ever recorded at Gulf Harbour, a ten under 62 shot by Ryan Fox and Steve Webster.

Unfortunately, a double of the par 5 17th derailed any hope of beating the course record, but he still managed to make a gritty par up the final hole to lead by two going into tomorrow.

Yeo says he’s still in disbelief with how his opening round played out.

“I just can’t believe I shot nine under. It’s unbelievable.

“My driver was a little unstable today; I was pulling and pushing it a bit. All my iron and wedge shots were great and my putting was awesome too. I could see the line really well and I holed a lot.

“After nine I thought I had something special going. I was eight under and I thought – I’m on fire today.”

He had to regroup after a tough double bogey on his penultimate hole and is proud of the way he finished on 18, where another bogey was looking likely.

“I thought to myself – just hit your tee shot in the fairway. Unfortunately, I pushed it even further right than my tee shot on 17 and hit five iron into the wind which I pulled short left of the green. It was a tough chip which I hit to about seven or eight feet, and luckily, I holed that for par.”

Chasing Yeo is a former NZPGA Championship winner Jarryd Felton and his fellow Australian compatriot, Brett Rankin.

The 2017 champion put last week’s missed cut behind him and came out firing today, making eight birdies and a bogey to sit a couple back.

He says he’s channelling the same good vibes as his victory in six-years-ago and is looking forward to improving as his week progresses.

“I played really well and got what I thought I deserved out of it towards the end.

“I have good vibes from 2017 when I won. It’s been a while but I’d love to get another win here in New Zealand.

“The course is great, really challenging, and if you hit good shots, you get rewarded. We’ll see how I go over the next three days, but I just have to keep the ball in play and hole some putts.”

Another former champion lurks four shots behind Yeo at five-under-par.

Two-time champion Michael Hendry took advantage of the benign conditions this morning to sit inside the top ten.

Hendry says he learned a couple of lessons at last week’s New Zealand Open and is pleased he was able to put them into play during today’s first round.

“I can’t put too much pressure on myself to deliver a result too early in the week which is where I end up making bogeys. I learnt that last week, the first round really killed me as I was trying to put myself in a decent position after round one. Hopefully, I can quietly accumulate a total, and it’s good enough come Sunday.”

Hendry is off to a positive start and feels good about where his game is as we head to the pointy end of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season.

Finishing as high up the Order of Merit is of high priority to the Gulf Harbour local, who sits sixth following his win at the Vic Open a month ago.

“I do feel pretty good about my game at the moment. The bad shots are all quite similar so I know where my ball is going and I’m hitting quite a few good ones too. I started a bit slowly this morning but managed to bring it back on the front nine which always plays a bit easier than the back here, particularly with this wind direction.

“I just chipped away and signed for a pretty good score at the end.”

Round two gets underway at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

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