Golf: Five to watch at the Hills

By Daniel Richardson

Hamilton-born Steven Alker won the New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater in 2009. Photo / Getty Images.
Hamilton-born Steven Alker won the New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater in 2009. Photo / Getty Images.

With the NZ PGA Championship set to get under way at The Hills in Queenstown on Thursday, APNZ's Daniel Richardson takes a look at five players to keep an eye on this week.

- Toshinori Muto, Japan. World ranking: 123. TAB odds: $200. There's a strong Asian contingent in the field at The Hills this week and Muto is one of the players who could give the tournament a good shake. A five-time winner on the Japan Tour, the 34-year-old also made the cut at last year's Open Championship where he finished in a share of 72nd place. Muto will be hoping for a decent showing in Queenstown.

- Brendan Jones, Australia. World ranking: 82. Tab odds: $13. Golf tournaments aren't played on paper but if they were Brendan Jones would be the likely winner at The Hills this week. The New South Welshman is the highest-ranked player in the field for the tournament and has played on the PGA Tour before. He is also a 12-time winner on the Japan Tour. At 37 he still has plenty of miles left in the tank so you can look for him to go well this week.

- Steven Alker, New Zealand. World ranking: 629. TAB odds: $30. Hamilton-born Steven Alker won the New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater in 2009 in one of its final years when it was contested under the previous format. The part-time Nationwide Tour player is ultra-consistent and finished in a share of 19th at last year's Open Championship in England. The 41-year-old won't lack experience this week and his steady style should serve him well at The Hills.

- Hale Irwin, USA. World ranking: Unranked. TAB odds: $60. At 67 Hale Irwin's best days are behind him but the three-time US Open winner certainly had some glorious days in his prime. Irwin also finished in the top five at the three other majors and even claimed third place at last year's Senior PGA Championship. Irwin is the all-time leader in wins on the Champions Tour with 45, while he was also a 20-time PGA Tour winner between 1971 and 1994. He may not be in the mix come Sunday but his appearance alone will be worth a watch.

- Michael Hendry, New Zealand. World ranking: 225. TAB odds: $17. Auckland's Michael Hendry is the defending champion at The Hills and looks set for a huge year in 2013. He has his card secured for the Japan Tour and will likely be tough to beat in Queenstown this week. The 33-year-old is the top-ranked Kiwi in the world at No 225 and finished second at the Queensland PGA Championship recently.

- APNZ

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