Australian Craig Hancock was the only player to break 70 on the opening day as his impressive four-under 68 saw him open up a two-stroke advantage at the New Zealand Open.
The Tasmanian took advantage of calmer morning conditions at the Clearwater Golf Club to post five birdies and a solitary bogey, distancing himself from fellow Aussie Kristopher Mueck along with the best of the Kiwi hopes, Ryan Fox.
Only 12 players registered red-figure numbers on Thursday as winds of up to 50km/h whipped through Clearwater in the afternoon.
Heath Reed, one of nine tied for fourth at one under, was the only player to post an under-par round after midday. The highlight of his 71 was an eagle at the par-five 14th where he holed a sand wedge from 85m.
The only hole that played under-par all day was the downwind 521m par-five 2nd, which yielded four eagles and 50 birdies from the 144-strong field - which was cut down to 143 when Aussie Gavin Fairfax was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
The average score on Thursday was a touch over 77 and there were more players in the 90s - Kiwi amateurs Compton Pikari (90) and Brook Hale (96) - than in the 60s.
The trials and tribulations of the afternoon golfers were music to Hancock's ears as he posted his number before noon and was able to put his feet up in the knowledge it was unlikely to be headed.
The 28-year-old made three birdies in a front nine of 33, added another two at 11 and 12 and gave his only stroke back at the 13th.
"I struggled a bit early but with the wind towards the end, I'm used to it in Tassie so it wasn't all bad for me," he said.
"You probably play a bit better in the breeze because you're not so relaxed. The first few holes there was no wind and I was (thinking) hit it anywhere and you'll be fine.
"But you have to really knuckle down when the wind gets up otherwise it'll bite you in the bum."
Mueck and Fox had been tied with Hancock in the midst of their back nines but couldn't hang on in their journey to the clubhouse.
For Fox, the aggressive mindset that saw him start with three consecutive birdies and get to five under through 10 holes came back to bite him with a double bogey at the short par-four 3rd.
The powerfully-built 25-year-old rookie took a driver and tried to drive the green, only to hit it slightly out of the heel and lose his ball in the scrub short and right of the green.
"I like to play aggressively but maybe for later in the week if I'm in contention it might be one just to hit an iron off the tee and try and hit a wedge in and make birdie that way," Fox said.
He made a further bogey coming in at the 6th but professed himself to be 'very happy' with a 70.
Victorian Mueck mixed four birdies and an eagle at the 2nd in with four bogies, two of which came at the 8th and 9th, his final two holes.
The difference in mindset between Mueck and Fox was exhibited in the former chucking his ball into the creek bordering the ninth green after he had holed out.
The group of 71s includes the highest-ranked Australian in the field, world No.383 Nick Cullen, one of the biggest local hopes in Gareth Paddison along with leading amateur Vaughan McCall.
The last Kiwi to win his national Open, 2003 champion Mahal Pearce, was among a group of eight with even-par 72s, along with the in-form Mark Brown and highly-touted Aussie amateur Jake Higginbottom.
The tournament's No.1 seed, the 350th-ranked Michael Hendry, would be disappointed with an opening 74.
He has reasonable company there in late 40-something veterans Peter O'Malley and Greg Turner, who could have both posted under-par rounds if not for identical bogey-double bogey finishes on the 8th and 9th.
The leading Kiwi for the past four Opens, Josh Geary, is at astronomical odds to make it five and is scrambling just to make the cut. His eight-over 80 leaves him tied for 108th.