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Ponting a smooth golfer

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Ricky Ponting is at it again – making six birdies in his opening round at the New Zealand Open golf championship.

The former Australian cricket captain had a chance for a seventh birdie from just over a metre but picked up after his partner in the pro-am competition, Daniel Popovic, drained his own birdie putt.

The pair produced a combined seven-under-par 65 opening round in the best-ball format on the Millbrook course about 20 minutes from Queenstown.

Ponting has a handicap of plus one but was playing off one after the slope rating adjustment.

His stellar performance came a week after he showed up good friend Popovic by out-scoring him with a sub-par round when they played together in the Victorian Open pro-am – then caddied for him in the tournament proper.

Former Australian PGA champion Popovic started the NZ Open with a one-under 71.

“I gave him (Ponting) a bit of stick because he played off the ladies tees. But, in reality, they were only a few metres up from where I was playing, so it was a great effort, Popovic told News Corp Australia.

“He just hits the ball really well – doesn’t do too many things wrong out there. He looks like a professional, to be honest.

“In fact, on the range, if you saw him hitting balls, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from the pros.”

Despite Ponting’s fine form, he and Popovic found themselves back in the pack in the NZ Open pro-am event with 12-under the leading team score.

Fellow former Australian cricket skipper Allan Border and his pro partner Brad Hughes were two shots back at a combined four-under.

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