Aussie Matt Griffin returned to the winners’ list in dramatic fashion at the weekend, draining a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to claim the BMW ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open by one shot over Japan’s Hideto Tanihara.
Starting the day two shots behind Tanihara, Griffin opened his final round with an eagle at the first to draw level before going head-to-head with the Japanese star until the final hole.
A clutch birdie at the last, where Tanihara made bogey, saw Griffin claim the title and his sixth win as a professional.
“This is by far the biggest event I’ve won,” says Griffin. “To win the New Zealand Open, it’s got so many good names on the trophy, it’s a real step forward for me.”
Making the victory even sweeter for Griffin was the fact he closed with a 5-under 67 to win in front of his parents, who had travelled overseas to watch him play for the first time.
“My girlfriend Liz, family and friends are all here, the celebrations are going to be pretty big,” Griffin said after the win. “It’s the first time that my parents have travelled overseas to see me play and it’s the biggest crowd I’ve had at any event and there will be a drink out of that trophy before the night is over!”
Griffin picked up NZ$180,000 for his efforts, rocketing him to the top of the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
From Queenstown the PGA Tour of Australasia will now head back to Australia for the Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship to be played at City Golf Club, Toowoomba from March 17-20.
Meanwhile, Aussie journeyman Scott Hend held off a stunning late charge from home town favourite Piya Swangarunporn to win the True Thailand Classic Presented by Chang.
Hend came into the final round at Black Mountain Golf Club six shots ahead of Swanagarunporn but was a shot behind with five holes to play as the Thai fired a brilliant course-record 63 to get to 17-under.
“There are so many great players out here on the Asian Tour and obviously the European Tour as well so it was no surprise the guys came after me,” says Hend. “But for Piya to shoot 63 today was an amazing round of golf and he must have played extremely well all day. He set the score and the target and then I had to just try and keep making birdies to try and catch him.”
“I learned from last year when I pushed too hard on the 17th here and lost my chance to win. So this year I knew I had to be patient and let the golf course come to me.”
A birdie on the 14th put Hend back into a share of top spot, and when he took advantage of the driveable 17th for the fourth time this week, that was enough to secure a 68 and a second European Tour title by a single shot.
“The two 3-woods I hit on the 18th were among the best 3-woods I have ever hit,” he says. “Once I was on the green I knew that I just had to three putt somehow for the win. I hit a great drive on 17 and two putted for birdie which gave me the edge. This is a great win and I would love to try and kick on now and get another win, try and qualify for the Open and also try and get into the match-play and see if I can do anything against the top 50 in the world.”
The win for Hend means 2016 is the first season in the history of The European Tour to have five different Australian winners and makes it two winners from Down Under in a row following Adam Scott’s triumph at the World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship.
Hend could move into the top-80 in the Official World Golf Ranking after his win.
– Written with PGA of Australia