Daniel Richardson

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

Golf: Kiwis upbeat over Open chances

Michael Hendry is among several Kiwi golfers in good form entering the New Zealand open. Photo / photosport.co.nz
Michael Hendry is among several Kiwi golfers in good form entering the New Zealand open. Photo / photosport.co.nz

A lot has happened since a Kiwi golfer, Mahal Pearce, last won the New Zealand Open at Middlemore in 2003.

But droughts, curses, streaks and hoodoos in sport are made to be broken and there's an air of quiet confidence among the New Zealand contingent at Clearwater that a Kiwi will be the one lifting the trophy.

A handful of locals come into the 94th New Zealand Open, which starts today, in solid form. Gareth Paddison, Mark Brown and Michael Hendry all finished in the top 10 at the Australian Masters last weekend.

Throw in former web.com tour pro Josh Geary and regular starters Pearce and Phil Tataurangi, plus a host of rookie pros including Ryan Fox and Ben Campbell, and you can see why the Kiwis are confident.

Geary, who has been the best-placed New Zealander at the event for the past four years, said it was time to see a Kiwi on top.

"I think, especially with the form in the last few weeks from some of the boys, Hendry, Mark Brown and Paddison playing well, they're a good chance this year, for sure."

As for his own form, Geary said despite having a lean year in the United States where he struggled to get starts after missing a few cuts early in the season, he felt like he could be in contention.

"This year I haven't played more than two [tournaments] in a row but it's just not me. I need a bit of momentum going on and what not. I think most guys do."

Geary has suffered plenty of disappointment in recent weeks after failed attempts to qualify for next year's European and PGA Tours.

He holds no status in the US next season and hoped a couple of big performances in New Zealand and Australia during the next few weeks would see him earn an opportunity to play in Asia next year.

Geary finished third at Clearwater last year and if he could go two better this week he would break a lengthy drought in New Zealand sport and breathe life into his own career.

Hendry is the leading money-winner on the Australian PGA Tour in 2012 and said he felt in good touch.

Peter O'Malley is one of the Australians who will want to steal the crown and he has won at Clearwater before.

"I like this golf course. It's in very good shape."

Nick Cullen, Aaron Townsend and amateur Jake Higginbottom are the other Aussie raiders who could spoil the party this week.

- APNZ

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