Can American success continue at NZPGA
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 NZ PGA Championship | Preview | 04 Mar 2009
Clearwater Resort plays host to the New Zealand PGA Championship this week and although the weather forecast is not too looking good, it is not expected to disrupt the tournament to the extent it did last year.
In 2008 the tournament was reduced to just 36 holes after wind and rain buffeted the course for two solid days. It was American Darron Stiles, who survived the endurance test of four days not quite knowing when or if the tournament was going to finish but there should be no such concerns this year.
The event became the New Zealand PGA Championship in 2004 after that particular championship had not been competed for in nearly 20 years. In the first two events at Clearwater in 2002 and 2003 before the resurrection of the NZPGA Championship, the event was known as the Holden Clearwater Classic although it has been played under the joint sanctioning of the Australasian and Nationwide Tours since 2002.
Peter O’Malley has been the most dominant player at the John Darby and Bob Charles designed Clearwater Resort over the past few years winning the inaugural staging of the event in 2002 when he cruised to a five shot victory and again in 2005 when he survived a four hole playoff against Steve Bowditch.
O’Malley has given an indication in the past two weeks that he could well make it three wins at Clearwater this week. He finished runner up to the surprise winner, Alistair Presnell, last week in Melbourne and had a solid week at the Johnnie Walker the week before. O’Malley has a comfort zone with this layout and it would not surprise to see him extend that this week.
Danny Lee makes his heroic return to his now homeland of New Zealand following his stunning victory at the Johnnie Walker two weeks ago in Perth. The 18 year old missed the cut at the Moonah Classic last week but that was perhaps understandable given the magnitude of what he had achieved a few days earlier. He will have even further pressure this week given the expectation now on him as New Zealand’s third highest world ranked player after David Smail and Mark Brown and as a youngster on whom so much is being written at present.
David Smail did well enough last week at Moonah when 8th to have put behind him the demise at the Australian Open late last year and having finished runner up in this event last year he is a genuine chance to win this event for the first time and ad a NZPGA title to his 2001 New Zealand Open victory.
Now injury and pain free, Michael Sim is playing some of his best golf at present. He led both the Johnnie Walker Classic and the Moonah Classic at various stages before finishing 7th and 3rd respectively.
Andre Stolz finished runner up to Ryan Palmer at Clearwater in 2003 and has not been back since. He went on to win on the PGA Tour the following year but not long after his career was foiled by a wrist injury. He returned to competitive golf in mid 2008 and a month ago won the Victorian PGA Championship a few weeks after an impressive 6th place finish at the Australian Open.
Typically this event has seen the North American contingent enjoy more success than has been the case in the Australian swing of their down-under foray. This golf course is perhaps more American in its style than courses such as Moonah Links, Royal Adelaide or Kooyonga and the results confirm that. Ryan Palmer, Jim Rutledge, Nicholas Thomson and Darron Stiles have all won around Clearwater and it might just be that they can win again courtesy of several highly regarded emerging stars.
Daniel Summerhays has played Clearwater previously and has been a regular contender on the Nationwide Tour since winning as an amateur in 2007. He has yet to graduate to the PGA Tour but this could give him a great head start towards such a goal in 2010.
Hunter Haas has been a long time contender in events on the Nationwide Tour and comes off a solid week at Moonah last week. He narrowly missed out on graduating to the PGA Tour last year and might go a long way towards doing so this week.
Skip Kendall did well last week when 4th at the Moonah Classic and as a winner of more than US$8 million on the PGA Tour he deserves respect. At 44 years of age he is hardly an emerging player but he is a player good enough to win this if everything fell into place.
South African Brenden Pappas is back on the Nationwide Tour in 2009 after a season or two on the PGA Tour. He struggled sat the higher level but did play reasonably well last week at Moonah and he could do well on a golf course more to his liking this week.
The tournament is the first of a two event swing in New Zealand with next week’s New Zealand Open in Queenstown now coming under the umbrella of the joint sanctioning of the Nationwide and Australasian Tours. Previously co-sanctioned with the European Tour, the New Zealand Open provides yet another opportunity for Australasians to access the Nationwide Tour.