Piller edges clear at NZ Open
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2009 New Zealand Open | Round Three | 14 Mar 2009
23-year-old American Martin Piller is looking to feed off the experience he gained when winning the Texas State Open during his final year in college last year when he leads the field into the fourth round of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open.
Piller put to together a solid third round of 68 to lead a lengthy line-up in second place just one shot back including New Zealanders Grant Waite and Josh Geary, Norwegian Henrik Bjornstad, Australian Jason Norris and American Alex Prugh.
Piller, who is in his first season as a professional after gaining his Nationwide Tour privileges via the PGA Tour School, led into the final round of the Texas State Open in the middle of 2008 and went on to win the professional event. “It wasn’t an event of the calibre of the Nationwide Tour like this but it was a pretty good field for Texas standards,” said Piller. “It did however prove to me that I could play at a reasonably high level especially after a Senior year in college when I couldn’t even make the team. I also gave me the money to go to Tour School as I did not have enough to go prior to that.”
“It was a course there where you had to go low so there was no chance to protect a lead as if forces you to shoot birdies so hopefully that is what I intend to do tomorrow rather than protect the lead. If I fall into the trap of trying to protect a lead then it won’t work so I my intention is to try and shoot 4 or 5 under. If I can do that then somebody is going to have go low to beat me. It (his victory in Texas) is definitely an experience I will draw on tomorrow.”
“It is a dream to play a course like this,” added Piller referring to The Hills. “There are plenty of good courses in America but this is one of the greatest courses I have played. It definitely rewards shotmakers which I think I am and you definitely need to know where it is going. When I first saw it earlier in the week I was a little intimidated because it was like 10 degrees and not like today but once you get out there and start playing it is a phenomenal course.”
New Zealander Grant Waite is one of those close on the leaders’ heels. Waite is a previous PGA Tour player, good enough to have won the 1993 Kemper Open and earned US$4.5 million in his career. His recent results however give little indication of that ability, missing nine of his last ten cuts and currently sitting at 1054th in the world but as the 44 year old from Palmerston North outlined after his round of 66 today, there is a fine line between success and failure in professional golf.
“There are just so many good players and the only way to separate yourself is in the scoring and that scoring comes down to those who make putts from say 4 to 15 feet. Throughout my career I have been below average in putting and the few weeks in a year where I play well it is because I have putted well.”
“I actually played well at Moonah despite missing the cut and at Clearwater for some reason I never seem to play well there. Then when I arrived here on Monday this is a golf course that looks familiar to me and is more the style of course I have become familiar with. Then after I played a practice round on Monday afternoon I called my family and told them that I really like this golf course as it really suits my eye and I was looking forward to playing.”
“I’m 44 now so my window of opportunity who knows could be two more years or ten more years. I work out but I have really struggled the last four years although to me it did not seem much of a difference between that and when I was playing well on the PGA Tour.”
After struggling early in his round Norwegian Henrik Bjornstad was home in 31 to set up a potentially better finish than his 4th place at the New Zealand PGA last year. Also home with a wet sail was the Australian Jason Norris who looked to be battling when he dropped two shots in his first seven holes but an eagle at the 17th followed by a birdie at the last has him knocking on the door of his greatest finish on the Australasian Tour. His previous best was when 7th last week.
Geary appeared to be heading for the third round lead when he birdied the 12th, 14th and 15th holes but a double bogey at the dangerous 16th cost him that chance. Prugh birdied the final two holes to also move into the share of second.
There were several rounds of 65 in round three and with only four shots separating 22 players then another one of those by any of the players included in that group or beyond could see the winner coming from well off the pace.