Nearly but not quite……

It could have been one of the great weeks in recent times.  With Lydia out in front in the LPGA again, Harry Bateman looking at his first PGA Tour of Australasia victory, several NZ’ers in contention halfway through the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, and Ryan Fox in good position heading into the weekend in Shanghai, the stars seemed to be lining up for some eyecatching results.

In the end, it didn’t work out as we all hoped – golf is a game of small margins – but some very worthy winners emerged, perhaps no more so than at Royal Wellington where we saw the future stars of world golf on display with a dominant performance from the  Chinese team.

Isuzu Queensland Open

Harry Bateman took a two shot lead into the final round of the Isuzu Queensland Open at the Brisbane Golf Club, and was still in control heading into the back nine on Sunday.  A birdie on the last hole would have seen him in a playoff with eventual winner Michael Sim (WA), but his 3rd bogey on the back nine dropped him to a T4 finish on -7, two shots behind Sim.

Fellow New Zealander Kieran Muir started the tournament with a 75, and looked to be likely to miss the cut, but rounds of 66, 69 & 66 propelled him to joint runner-up with Oliver Goss (WA) on    -8.  This is Kieran’s best result on the Tour, and earned him a cheque of $NZ 10k.  Given that Kieran  was the Mondiale NZ PGA Order of Merit winner for 2016, with Harry Bateman having won the title in 2015, the Isuzu Queensland Open was a great endorsement for the NZ circuit as a preparation ground for overseas Tours.  Both Muir and Bateman had the benefit of two Charles Tour events as part of this, as did Mark Brown (T20 on even par) and Brad Shilton (T50, +7).

Bateman and Shilton now head to Japan to join Gareth Paddison and Tae Koh in 3rd Stage Japan Tour Q-School  qualifying.

WGC-HSBC Champions

Ryan Fox went into the weekend at -4, and after an early birdie in Round 3 he looked to be in good shape for another high finish.  However, Ryan hit the bogey train soon after, shooting 75/76 in the final two rounds to finish T46 on +3.  Fellow New Zealander Michael Hendry stuck to his task over the weekend when conditions were much more demanding, but finished well back at T65 on +7.

They weren’t the only ones to get beaten up by the Sheshan  course, which produced some astonishing swings in fortune.  World 1# Dustin Johnston cruised around in 63 on Friday, only to blow out to a 77 on Sunday, dropping him into a tie for 2nd  on -12 alongside Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson.  Meanwhile Justin Rose came from 7 shots back starting the final round to post an outstanding 68, and a two shot victory on -14.

Johnston’s 14 shot fluctuation from low round to high wasn’t the biggest in the tournament: South Africa’s Branden Stone had a nightmare 87 in Round 2 – perhaps he wished there was a cut after experiencing that – only to bounce back with a 68 in Round 3, a 19 shot improvement!!

Although Ryan and Michael would have been looking for better, they both had respectable paydays, with Ryan taking home around $NZ 80k, and Michael $60k.

Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship

If this tournament is anything to go by, expect to see plenty of Chinese flags on world golf leaderboards in years to come.  Chinese players made up four of the top five places.  Winner Yuxin Lin gave the term “strong finish” new meaning with a birdie/birdie/eagle finish to take out the event on -14.  Lin is a leftie, provoking a flash back to 1954 when another left hander called Bob Charles took out the NZ Open as an 18 year old.  Lin will now head to Augusta and Carnoustie in 2018 through this result.

The leading New Zealander was Daniel Hillier, who finished T6 on -5.  Nick Voke came in T10 on -3, and now heads back to Web.Com Q-School for Stage Two Qualifying next week.

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

It looked like normal service had been resumed at last when Lydia Ko posted a 7 under round of 64 to lead this tournament on Thursday.  Unfortunately, a bad start in Round 2 stopped the momentum, and even a last round 67 could only get her to a T11 finish on -11, just four shots off the pace.

Winner Cristie Kerr took out a thriller by sinking a 12 metre putt on the final hole to finish -15, just ahead of a three way tie for 2nd between Danielle Kang and Jacqui Concolino (USA), and Shanshan Feng of China.

Asian Tour

We omitted mentioning Fraser Wilkin in our preview last week – in the end, he was the only New Zealander to make the cut in the Indonesian Open, finishing T54 on even par, alongside Daniel Chopra.  Both were a long way behind winner Paniphol Pittayarat on -23.  Thai players took the first five placings.

Gareth Paddison and Campbell Rawson missed the cut.