Breakthrough victory opens many doors

Two years ago, Jason Norris was about to give tournament golf away, but felt he might have one big victory to come.  That day came yesterday at Natadola Bay, when the 44 year old Norris saw off three former Masters champions and a host of young guns to record a convincing four shot win on -14, banking over $NZ250,000 for his efforts.  The days of working in the pro shop at the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide may well be over for Norris for a while, as he pursues wider opportunities on the Asian and European Tours, plus of course the PGA Tour of Australasia.

There was a three way tie for 2nd between the 21 year old Thai player Jazz Janewattananond, and David McKenzie and James Marchesani of Australia.

Daniel Pearce led the tournament into the weekend, and played well enough for most of the last round to be a genuine chance for outright 2nd, only to stumble at the last two holes and fall into a tie for 5th on -9.  Daniel pockets around $NZ 51,500, the biggest cheque of his professional career to date, but he will no doubt be reflecting on what might have been.

Overall though, it was a good week for New Zealand players, with six finishing in the Top 20.  Gareth Paddison finished T8 on -8, Mark Brown saved his best work for the final round with a 66 to finish T12 on -7, Josh Geary and Harry Bateman were T16 on -6, and Michael Long T20 on -5.  Also making the cut were Ryan Fox (T24 on -4), Ben Campbell (T47, even par), and Kieran Muir (66th on +5).

The commentators curse took care of Michael Hendry and Brad Shilton, with David Smail and David Klein also missing the cut.  Hendry in particular could rue his luck: he struck the ball well throughout in the toughest of the conditions in the first two rounds, but couldn’t buy a putt and missed the cut by a single shot.

Iceman takes out Wyndham Championship

With the FedEx Cup playoffs looming, Henrik Stenson has found form at the right time, living up to his name and holding his nerve through a pressure-packed back nine to finish on -22 for a one shot victory over Ollie Schniederjans, with Webb Simpson finishing 3rd on -18.

Tim Wilkinson came out of the blocks fast with an opening 63, and was the best of the New Zealand players with a creditable T14 finish on -12.  Steven Alker made a 2nd round surge, but couldn’t join the weekend birdie fest, finishing T50 on -6.  It was a frustrating end to the regular season for Alker, who made four cuts in a row through July and August, but was unable to kick on to a high finish in each case.  He finished 186# in the FedEx Cup Rankings, with Wilkinson improving slightly to 156#.

Danny Lee missed the cut, but still sits at 56# overall.  He will want to see better form though than he has shown in recent weeks.

USA victorious in Solheim Cup

The underdog European Team held their own in singles and foursomes play in this weekend’s Solheim Cup, only to be undone in the four balls.  The Americans recorded a 4 – 0 whitewash, on Friday, and took out the Saturday four balls 3 – 1.

In the end, that lead to a hard fought but clear cut victory by 16 ½ points to 11 ½ .

Paul Lawrie Matchplay

The old saying “Two up and five to go never wins” came true again when Adrian Otaegui of Spain came from exactly that position (having been three down at the turn) to rattle off four birdies in a row, and see off home town hero Marcel Siem to take out this year’s Paul Lawrie Matchplay at Bad Griesbach in Bavaria.

Otaegui was in astonishing form throughout, recording 36 birdies and an eagle in his six matches, and an accumulated tally of 33 under par for the tournament, to post his maiden European Tour victory.