CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — American Steve Friesen shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the New Zealand PGA Championship.
Friesen, the former Nebraska star in his first full season on the Nationwide Tour, had an 11-under 205 total on the Bob Charles-designed Clearwater course. He birdied four of the first five holes to reach 12 under.
“It was good to get off to that start,” Friesen said. “It settles you down a bit when you see the ball going into the hole.”
He grew up playing in strong wind in Nebraska.
“The wind just blows there,” Friesen said. “There’s nothing to stop it. You learn to choke down on the club and hit a lot of three-quarter iron shots. This was just an average day in Nebraska. … I like this course. It’s similar to the ones I grew up on. It feels like the Midwest, except for those mountains.”
Australia’s Kurt Barnes and New Zealand’s Steve Alker were tied for second. Barnes, tied for the second-round lead, shot a 71, and Alker had a 67.
“This week I’ve been staying patient, sticking to my guns and picking my targets,” Alker said. “I’ve also been trying to have a little bit of fun.”
He hole a 185-yard shot for an eagle-2 on the 421-yard sixth hole.
“It’s not every day you hole a 4-iron from the fairway,” Akler said.
Danny Lee, the New Zealand amateur who won Johnnie Walker Classic last month, shot a 69 to top a group at 9 under. The 18-year-old Lee, the U.S. Amateur champion, plans to turn pro after the Masters. Born in South Korea, he moved to New Zealand at age 8.
Fellow New Zealander David Smail (68) also was 9 under along with Americans Ryan Hietala (69) and Craig Bowden (70) and Australia’s Stephen Dartnall (68).
The tournament also is sanctioned by the Australasian tour.