NZPGA next for globetrotting Nationwide
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2008 NZ PGA Championship | Preview | 13 Feb 2008
For the first time since the introduction of the Nationwide Tour events in this part of the world, New Zealand will be the first port of call with the New Zealand PGA Championship taking place this week in Christchurch on the picturesque South Island.
In previous years it has been the Jacob’s Creek Open in Adelaide that has opened proceedings but with the event no longer on the schedule, the Nationwide players will head to Australia next week for the Moonah Classic at Moonah Links on the Mornington Peninsula, the previous home of the Australian Open.
The John Darby and Bob Charles designed Clearwater Golf Club in the outer suburbs of the South Island of New Zealand’s largest city will play host to this event for the 7th consecutive year. The tournament began here in 2002 as the Holden Clearwater Classic then became the ING New Zealand PGA Championship and last year was renamed the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship.
The New Zealand PGA Championship title was added in 2004 after that particular event had been lost to tournament golf for 18 years.
The event brings together many hopefuls looking to eventually gain access to the USPGA Tour and many of those who have won the tournament have gone on to do just that.
A win here this week will take the victor towards PGA Tour status with four of the previous six winners (Ryan Palmer, Gavin Coles, Jim Rutledge and Nicholas Thompson) going on to gain their tour cards at the end of the Nationwide Tour season. On only two occasions has that not been the case with Peter O’Malley, the winner in 2002 and 2005, preferring instead to campaign in Europe.
Many others may not have won but have used a good finish in Christchurch to assist their cause and this week’s favourite, and the Nationwide Tour money list leader in 2008, Jarrod Lyle, is one of them.
Lyle finished second to Rutledge in 2006 and played his way onto the PGA Tour in 2007. He struggled at the higher level but back on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 he has already made his mark with a win in Mexico and a 6th place in Panama. A finish inside the top two this week will have Lyle assured of his 2008 PGA Tour card after just three events.
Lyle deserves, therefore, to be favourite, given a good record at the golf course (he also lead after 36 holes in 2005) and his current form.
Greg Chalmers arrives in New Zealand following two very good finishes in Panama and Mexico the best a 5th after leading early in Mexico. Chalmers finished 13th at Clearwater last year and like Lyle has the credentials to contend this week.
Peter O’Malley has the best record in the event despite missing the cut the last time he played here. He has played well enough of late to at least to be a chance again. He had two reasonable finishes in the Middle East as his lead in tournaments.
New Zealand’s two best golfers, David Smail and Michael Campbell, are an unknown quantity to some extent around Clearwater. Campbell has not played here previously while Smail, who finished runner up in his second to last event of 2007 at the Australian PGA Championship, has not enjoyed much success in this event.
Steve Bowditch lost a playoff in this event three years ago but despite a runner up finish at the New Zealand Open in December he has struggled in the early Nationwide Tour events this year.
Scott Gardiner, Won Joon Lee, Adam Bland and Marc Leishman may represent better chances amongst the Australians while the American hopes, on paper at least, are best served by the likes of D.A. Points, Matthew Every and Jeff Klauk.
Klauk has played very well of late although he has not played well at this event, Points finished 14th last week at Pebble Beach and Every has made a great start to his Nationwide Tour career with a runner up finish Mexico last week.
One other American worth keeping an eye on is Bill Lunde, who finished runner up in this event several seasons ago. He has finished 5th and 11th in his first two starts on the Nationwide Tour this season after a time where he quit the game and tried to work in the real world. That didn’t work out and after playing the mini tours for a while he just missed out on his PGA Tour card late last year and now has his status back on the Nationwide Tour and is doing well.