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Tim Wilkinson isn't the Frank Sinatra of New Zealand golf just yet but, when he eventually hangs up his clubs, the 30-year-old wants to look back on his career in the manner of 'Ol' Blue Eyes and say "I did it my way."

Doing it his way has been Wilkinson's mantra ever since he burst onto the Challenge Tour in 2004 when, by his own admission, he took life rather too seriously.

These days the only New Zealander on the PGA Tour says he has mellowed to the point of describing himself as "laid back". But beneath the calm exterior, Palmerston North-born Wilkinson hides a ruthless streak which manifests itself in a 'winning is everything and second is nothing' philosophy on the world's most lucrative circuit.

"My only fear is looking back on my career and thinking I didn't do my best to improve," Wilkinson told the Herald On Sunday during the Australian Masters tournament in Melbourne this week.

"I go out there believing I can win because winning is the main reason I'm a professional golfer. I don't go onto the course thinking about the money; I go out there to improve in every tournament.

"Professional golf isn't a team sport so I'm not embarrassed to say that I compete for myself more than I do for New Zealand - but I'm always proud to come from Palmerston North.

"I just like doing things my way and that means that I'm a fairly private person but I'm also someone who was brought up to take responsibility for his own actions instead of making excuses."

Wilkinson was 92nd on the PGA Tour money list in his debut season last year; earning NZ$1,974, 644 to catapult him into the top 125 players who automatically qualified for the tour in 2009.

Yet for all the single-minded talk, hours upon hours of practice and strength of focus, Wilkinson comes across as a man who knows that intensity is necessary but a well-balanced approach is essential.

He should know. He's reaping the benefits now but it has taken 18 years of playing golf relentlessly - the last four of which have been in the US on the Nationwide or the PGA Tours - to get there.

The PGA Tour, for all the money and the opportunity, can be a grind. For some golfers not featuring in the top end of tournaments, the circuit can be a relentless

parade of golf, golf and more golf, broken only by travelling, hotel food and sleep - before more golf.

To some observers, it can look an artificial, guilded environment - with every golfer seeming to have a trophy blonde wife on their arm.

Now ranked 126 in the world, Wilkinson says a showbiz lifestyle with the trappings of fame has never been on his radar.

"I rent a house in Arizona for most of the year and I don't own a holiday home there," Wilkinson said. "I've got an American girlfriend but who knows how that relationship will progress?

"Essentially I'm just a normal guy and I'm not a big spender. I've got a sweet tooth but Lindt chocolate balls are the only item on my Christmas wish list.

"There is a lot of pressure associated with being a professional golfer but for me it's about enjoying life and not taking myself too seriously. I enjoy practising and I've got good mates like Peter Lonard whom I practise with.

"I don't have to camp in a car and eat fried rice out of polystyrene cups on the PGA Tour so I'm pretty lucky - which is why I've never thrown my clubs when I've been angry with myself."

"My life is definitely not about playing golf, eating, and sleeping," Wilkinson said. "On the Monday of a tournament week, I typically go to the course during the day and then go back to the hotel to hang out with friends and socialise.

"I do the same on a Tuesday but on Wednesdays I try to do a few hours of solid practice before the tournament starts - but I'm not in a bubble.

"I like going to music concerts, I stay fit and I collect coins, which not many people know about.

"Around friends and family I don't want to be known as Tim Wilkinson the golfer, just as Tim."

"I don't go out of my way to talk to people but when they want to talk to me I do my best to be available. Maybe I'm a bit of a recluse but at the same time I don't ignore people when they want to see me."

Wilkinson is not immune to frustration, however, and he

endured more than his fair share on the US PGA Tour last year. Every time he lost a shot at the rich Sony Open in Hawaii, he was calculated to have lost US$66,000 - but never threw his clubs.

"When you are in a situation like that - when every shot is worth so much - you must not think about the money. I just concentrate on playing the shot," Wilkinson said.

"That's what I tried to do and after [the Sony Open] I analysed my own game and worked through the aspects I felt I could have done better. That is the only way to deal with disappointment.



He made 17 out of 29 cuts last year with a second place finish at the Texas Open and third place at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in March his season highlights. He wants to win his first PGA Tour event next year.

"I suppose I am perfectionist but that's just my nature. I can be hard on myself but that's what drives me on to keep improving.

"Winning trophies isn't the only measure of how successful someone has been - Greg Norman only won two majors but he's had a great life and a great career - but it's important to me."