Americans stand a better chance at NZPGA

BY Bruce Young | Tour | 2006 NZ PGA Championship | Preview | 21 Feb 2006
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The ING New Zealand PGA Championship completes the first half of the 2006 Australasian Tour when the event is played over the Clearwater Resort layout this week.

The Clearwater Resort is a John Darby/Bob Charles designed layout on the outskirts of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island and has been opened since 2000. This is the second of two co-sanctioned events with the Nationwide Tour in this part of the world following the Jacob’s Creek Open in Adelaide last week.

Typically the American contingent has fared much better here than on the rather unfamiliar style of golf courses that they have been exposed to in Adelaide. While only seven Americans were inside the top 22 players last week, it is fair to assume the ratio will be higher this week. Last year more than half of the top twenty were Americans and that has been a common theme here every year.

This will be the fifth staging of the event since Peter O’Malley won the inaugural Holden Clearwater Classic in 2002 and when O’Malley won at Clearwater again last year, he became the first player to win the event on two occasions. It had by then become known as the ING New Zealand PGA and with his playoff victory over Steven Bowditch last year, O’Malley had become the only player in history to have won the New Zealand Amateur, the New Zealand Open and the New Zealand PGA Championships.

O’Malley is back this year and although his early season form has not been impressive, it would not be a surprise to see him quickly back in contention this week. He actually missed the cut last week in Adelaide which is a rare occurrence for him in Australasian events. Three of O’Malley’s four Australasian Tour victories have been recorded in New Zealand.

The last two Australasian Tour winners, American Kevin Stadler and last week’s winner Paul Sheehan, line up again this week with both expected to do well again.

As was the case last week in Adelaide there are many young Australasians looking to capitalise on one of the few opportunities they have to access the Nationwide Tour. The likes of Michael Sim, Aron Price, Nick Flanagan, Gavin Flint, Andrew Buckle, Jarrod Lyle, and Bradley Iles amongst many other will look to either secure a place on the Nationwide Tour this season or consolidate the status they already have.

Jarrod Lyle played well here last year until a last round of 76 saw him fall back but he showed with his fourth place last week he is almost at the level he was at when arriving here last year not long after his brave effort at the Heineken.

Of the Americans Johnson Wagner, Ryan Armour and Roland Thatcher have all played well here previously and played well enough in Adelaide to suggest they are not far from good form.

While the best players from this part of the world are elsewhere this week this is an intriguing event that has the capacity to shape the future of the winner. There has been no better example of this than when Ryan Palmer won the event in 2003 and went on to secure his card on the PGA Tour. He has subsequently won on the USPGA Tour and has won US$3.3 million in just over two seasons.

It might be an American winner, it might be an Australasian, but either way the 2006 ING New Zealand PGA Champion is well on his way to greener pastures.

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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.

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