Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Golf: Refreshed Brown ready for European return

Mark Brown. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Brown. Photo / Getty Images

Mark Brown is hoping his latest rejuvenation sparks a return to the European Tour.

The Lower Hutt right-hander has spent this year playing predominantly in Australia, New Zealand and Asia after losing his European Tour card at the end of last season. Brown banked €121,005 ($190,360) in 2011 which saw him finish 161st in the Race to Dubai. It brought to an end a busy four-year stint on the top European circuit and made him re-evaluate his game.

"I think I played too much," he said. "I played 35 tournaments a year. I got a bit stale and lost my game a little bit and wasn't working hard enough on the golf course and in the gym and just got a bit lazy. When that happens on a big tour like the European Tour, you get spat out the bottom pretty quickly and that's what happened to me.

"So this year's been good getting back home, working a lot harder, having a few weeks off so I can work hard in off-weeks. I'm back seeing Mal Tongue for coaching and that's sorted my golf game out.

I just had to sort my body out and get strong and being at home has given me all those chances to do that."

Brown played 34 times in both 2010 and 2011 - most professionals play between 20 and 25 tournaments a year - and he was also without a coach for a couple of years. His extra hours in the gym have paid off this year and he is sitting second on the Australasian PGA order of merit and ninth on the OneAsia money list.

Last night, his renewed form could also be seen in his appearance on the leaderboard at the Australian Masters. He carded a five-under par 67 to be in fourth, though seven shots behind Ian Poulter, who hit a 64 yesterday, with Australians Adam Scott one stroke behind Poulter and Matthew Guyatt one ahead of Brown.

Brown also blitzed the field at September's Carrus Open in Tauranga when he shot a final-round eight-under 62 to claim the title by four shots. It might have been a tournament with a purse of only $40,000 but it was a victory at another Charles Tour event and good things happened after he won the Taranaki Open in 2006.

After turning professional in 1996, he bounced around the Canadian Tour for a few years without much success and was even working as a junior development officer for the Wellington Golf Association before he decided to give the game another decent run.

But, after that win in Taranaki, Brown collected US$191,356 ($236,223) on the Asian Tour in 2007 before a stellar 2008. He won the Sail Open by four strokes in India in February and lodged his biggest career pay-day when he claimed the Johnnie Walker Classic in New Delhi a week later. With a handful of tournaments to go on the Australasian and OneAsia tours this year, Brown's final standings will dictate where he will play next season.

He has three starts guaranteed on the European Tour and, if he can deliver during one of those, it should earn him another tour card.

Brown will start this week's New Zealand Open at Clearwater as one of the tournament favourites and the 38-year-old would love to be the first Kiwi since Mahal Pearce triumphed at Middlemore in 2003 to win the national open.

"It's been a dream since I was a kid," he said. "I've had two top-10s but that was back in the day and I wasn't playing particularly well.

"But I feel the last few years I'm probably a lot better golfer. This will be my first chance to play it for a while so it'll be nice just to get in contention and go from there."

- APNZ

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