Stiles holds off Smail for NZPGA win
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2008 NZ PGA Championship | Round Two | 17 Feb 2008
American golfer Darron Stiles parred the last nine holes of his final round at the New Zealand PGA Championship and in doing so held out New Zealand’s number one ranked player and the leading world ranked player in this event, David Smail, to win by one shot.
In a tournament that was reduced to just 36 holes after being plagued by heavy rain for most of the week, it would take a quick start to the final round to break free of the congested leaderboard. 34-year-old Stiles did just that and quickly staked his claim to a fifth (albeit unofficial) Nationwide Tour victory. He birdied five of the first six holes of his final round and at eleven under par for the tournament at that point, he had established a winning break on the field.
A bogey at the 9th gave hope to those who were pursuing Stiles with Smail, who was voted NZ Golfer of the Year this week, appearing to be the most likely when he moved within one before a bogey at the par three 16th made his quest to be the first New Zealand winner of this rejuvenated New Zealand PGA Championship just that much more difficult.
Smail, who finished runner up to Peter Lonard at the 2007 Australian PGA Championship in December, birdied the dangerous last after a brilliant second to six feet for the best round of the day (66) and was forced to wait for nearly an hour until Stiles reached the 18th.
After his fast start, Stiles had struggled with his putter for much of the last nine holes but found a way to hole a very important six footer for par and secured a title that will see him half way to PGA Tour status in 2008. Given the reduced nature of the event the title will not be recognised as an official win on the Nationwide Tour but the first prize of US$117,000 will be listed against his official earnings in 2008.
Stiles has been back and forwards between the PGA and Nationwide Tour over a professional career spanning back to 1995, winning four events on the Nationwide Tour but struggling at the higher level.
American Rick Price birdied three holes in the middle of his back nine to give himself a chance of victory but was unable to improve further. He finished alone in third place and although it was Price’s 6th visit to Clearwater and his best result.
Queenslander Adam Crawford produced his best finish for some time, a bogey at the par three 16th costing him a chance of something even better but for the 32-year-old this was a very good result.
The Australasian and Nationwide Tours now move to Moonah Links in Victoria for this week’s inaugural Moonah Links Classic.