Many agendas at BMW New Zealand Open

BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2011 BMW New Zealand Open | Preview | 29 Nov 2011

That the BMW New Zealand Open is even being played this week in the New Zealand South Island city of Christchurch is a significant achievement for all of those involved in ensuring that the event, announced the day prior to the horrific earthquake nine months, ago would go ahead.

The Clearwater Resort is in an area of Christchurch which received relatively minor damage compared to many others and so an event which will assist in further boosting the moral of Christchurch people and the local economy remains on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s schedule.

Clearwater Resort will stage its first New Zealand Open this week but it is no stranger to high class tournament golf. In 2002 the Holden Clearwater Classic, jointly sanctioned between the Australasian and Nationwide Tours, was played here soon after the golf residential and resort complex opened and was won that year by Peter O’Malley.

O’Malley again displayed his liking for the layout when he defeated Steve Bowditch in a playoff for the 2005 New Zealand PGA Championship and is back in this week’s field for several reasons.

Playing opportunities in his old stomping ground of Europe are becoming less available as his career money list status declines and, still wanting to play as much as he can from his Sydney base, he is here to continue his love affair with Clearwater.

“When you go to a golf course where you have won before you go with a lot of good feelings about the place and when you have won twice it makes it even better,” said O’Malley regarding his previous success. “It is a golf course that suits my game somehow and that does give you a lot of confidence.”

Both players are members of the Board of the PGA of Australia and, as such, recognise the importance of the event in the overall scheme of things despite the fact that it has lost its joint sanctioning with either the European or the Nationwide Tours.

“The fact that is it not co-sanctioned with anyone is not a bad thing,” said O’Malley. “It is a good enough tournament to be on its own. It is great that BMW have come on for three years to try and build it up. It has always been a good event the New Zealand Open and while it would be good to get the prize-money up, the fact that we are playing it is fantastic.”

“It gives a lot of young New Zealanders the opportunity to play in their national open and with other professionals and see where their game stands against better players,” said Parry. “It could be a great stepping stone for young kids coming through as well.”

The New Zealand Open is important to Parry for other reasons as well as in winning the event in 2002 and defeating Tiger Woods amongst others in the process, he was able to gain access to the American Express Championship in Washington that year which he won.

“Obviously it changed my life. Tiger in the field allowed me to get into a WGC event and then winning that kept me on the PGA Tour for another few years and then it opened up with another PGA Tour event win in Doral. I am forever in debt to the New Zealand Open as I have been able to have another few years on the PGA Tour.

“If you are talking about money then that win at the WGC NEC event was worth A$2 million as the Aussie dollar was a lot lower than it was now and the Ford in 2004 was worth about $900,000 so overall the win that year at New Zealand Open made me $A3 million.”

“We have come here to play a national open,” said O’Malley, responding to a question regarding the low level of prize-money on offer this week. “The prize-money is not really an issue for us but rather we wanted to come here and play well in an event we have both won before and want to win again.”

“The other reason we are here is for Christchurch,” said O’Malley. “Pazz (parry) and I went up to Toowoomba this year to support the Queensland PGA after their floods and the same thing here as we want to make sure this event helps in getting Christchurch back going.

“New Zealand has been good to both of us over the years even when we were amateurs we would come over here and play and now. You do have to give back. Now we are both at home it gives us the chance to play events such as this and the Queensland PGA. Playing the PGA Tour it was hard to play in tournaments you wanted to play in as you were overseas.”

So what are two of the tournament’s most experienced players’ impressions of the golf course?

“Well I think if you get to double figures under par this week especially with this wind blowing around then that is going to be enough," said Parry. “There are a lot more roll off areas around the green and it is going to roll away from the green especially on the back nine. Years ago you never had to worry about a ball running off the green on a hole like the 15th. It is set up really well and you will have to play good golf.”

There is little doubt that the golf course offers a considerably different set-up to that on display at previous events at Clearwater, perhaps as it should for an event of this signficance in New Zealand golf. If the wind continues to blow, the more demanding nature of Clearwater in 2011 will take its toll.

While Parry and O’Malley are considered possible chances, more so O’Malley because of some good form of late and his record at the golf course, there are many others who might not necessarily be household names but who are more than capable of winning the event.

O’Malley trailed only Tiger Woods heading into round three of the recent Australian Open and although he faltered over the weekend the form followed his runner-up finish at the NSW PGA Championship.

Recent State Championship event winners, Michael Wright, Rohan Blizard and Adam Crawford are also in the field as are New Zealand hopes, Michael Campbell, David Smail and Mike Hendry.

In all five former winners of the event are in the field namely O’Malley (1995), Campbell (2000), David Smail (2001), Mahal Pearce 2003 and Terry Price (2004).

Smail played well In Japan last week at the lucrative Casio World Open, his first real show of form for quite some time although Campbell, Pearce and Price are playing below their best at present.

Campbell spoke today of the ongoing encouragement he has had with his game since changing coaches to Gary Edwin last year. “It was good to have a fresh start with Gary when I made the change last year. It has been a roller coaster ride but I am here and I am patient.

“Patience is the key right now but I am pretty happy with where I am right now compared to twelve months ago. I could hardly shoot par back then but thank God I met Gary. My fairways hit stats (72%) have been the best they have been since I started on the European Tour in 1994.”

Another change in Campbell’s life is the fact that he will move to Switzerland to have easier access to the European Tour where he still has five years exemption as a winner of a major and perhaps longer with career money and lifetime membership he enjoys as a result of his 2005 US Open victory.

Campbell takes up his residence in a new home near Lausanne early January and has had the support of his family in doing so. “I have tried to play the European Tour from Australia and it was pretty hard flying back five or six times a year. I am no spring chicken and it takes a toll after a while. I talked it through with my family suggesting we give it a go or I consider doing something else for a living.”

One player who will have mixed emotions about being here is South Australian Adam Bland. By rights Bland should have been at the Final Stage of Qualfying for the PGA Tour, an event he had gained access to as a result of his efforts on the Australsian Tour in 2010. Unfortunately for Bland his management company did not put his entry in on time and as a result he is here trying to earn dollars towards the money list so he can play OneAsia events next year.

The 2011 BMW New Zealand Open event might not enjoy anywhere near the same profile as the three significant events in Australia in November but for many who are here it carries a level of importance that is immeasurable and to the city of Christchurch perhaps even more so.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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