Veteran Scott Hend continued to impress at the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport today adding a five-under-par 66 to his opening day 64 to take the lead on 12-under at the halfway point.

The Asian Tour Order of Merit champion in 2016 and a 10-time winner on the circuit leads by two from fellow Australians Matthew Griffin, the joint overnight leader with Hend, Marcus Fraser and Sam Brazel plus David Hillier and Josh Geary from New Zealand.

Hend played on the Coronets Course here at Millbrook Resort, in Queenstown, as did Hillier (65), who made birdie on the last four, Geary (65), Brazel (67), and Griffin (68) while Fraser’s 66 came on the Remarkables – in an event that features a Pro-Am component, with each professional having an amateur partner.

Young Indonesian golfer Jonathan Wijono, who plays on the Asian Development Tour, put together one of the finest rounds of his young career carding a 66 on Remarkables to move into a tie for seventh one shot further back.

An additional stroke behind is a large group of players that includes a host of leading Asian Tour players: Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho (66), Gunn Charoenkul (69) from Thailand, Australian Kevin Yuan (69), and New Zealand’s Ben Campbell (69), whose home club is Millbrook Resort. They all played Remarkables.

Hend, whose most recent win on the Asian Tour came in 2019, was grateful for the calm conditions.

Said the 50-year-old: “It’s not playing as difficult as it has in the past honestly, because we haven’t had that 20, 30 kilometre an hour wind out there.

“It’s just one of those things you’ve got to take advantage of when you can. You don’t know what’s going to happen on the weekend. Sunday could be a little bit dodgy, so we’ll just keep going.”
Six birdies and just one bogey allowed him to move into pole position.

Said 23-year-old Wijono, who made seven birdies and two bogeys: “I have been playing well recently, just after missing my card at Q School, so it’s a great time to be coming into form now for this event.

“Just played conservative today. Just put it on fairway and put it on the green as much as I can. Tried to make less mistakes.”

Gunn tied for sixth here last year and is in the hunt once more despite some concerns about his swing.

He said: “I couldn’t really find the feeling in my swing. If I find it, then I think I’m pretty confident with my game. I found my feeling yesterday, but I lost it today again.”

He began on the back nine and made nine straight pars before making a birdie on the first. He made bogey on the next two before hitting a seven wood to 18-feet on the fifth to set up an eagle.

“That was a big breath of fresh air. I just love this place. Just the vibe of it,” he added.

The fact that Kho is in contention probably has much to do with last year, when he came down to play but couldn’t get a start.

“I was here last year as first reserve because I was Q School category,” said the Hong Kong star.

“I actually played both practice rounds and I stood on the first tee, from the first tee time to the last and didn’t get to play. But just with all the good memories I have, with what was like a little holiday down here, it was good to come back and it’s a real honour.

“For the third week in a row I feel I have been trying to re-fine my game. It’s definitely heading in the right direction. I just plan to have fun tomorrow, it is a unique format in a beautiful part of the world.”

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