It came down to a shootout and Michael Hendry didn’t blink.
Hendry claimed the New Zealand Open at Millbrook yesterday by parring the first playoff hole.
Hendry, a former national age-group cricketer, hit his tee shot on the first playoff hole, the short par-3 18th, to within 8m of the hole.
And when his opponents, Australian Brad Kennedy and fellow NZer Ben Campbell, hit the ball into the water on the left, it was Hendry’s title to lose.
When Hendry putted the ball to within 30cm of the hole, he knew the tournament was his.
He tapped in to par the hole and become the first New Zealander to win the title since Dunedin’s Mahal Pearce won in Auckland in 2003.
Hendry, 37, says the win was won by two eagles in Saturday’s round and the positive attitude he took into the playoff.
“I was a little bit gutted to go into the playoff … but once I knew it was going into the playoff I felt a lot more comfortable and relaxed.
“The 72 holes are over and it is just a few more shots and I was thinking to myself there is not all that much pressure now.
“It is lap of the gods stuff. If someone hits a great shot then so be it and I was very fortunate. It was still a tricky shot as the other two showed,” the Aucklander said.
“Sure it would have been nice to have finished it off in regulation but I’m just happy to have got the job done.”
For Hendry, who has also won the Indonesian Open and events on the Japan Tour, it’s the biggest win of his career and one he obviously treasures.
“I’m extremely happy. This is the one I wanted. To me and most of the Kiwis in the field if it is not one of those four [majors], it is this one,” he says.
“To have the NZ Open and have the NZPGA trophy as well that is pretty sweet.”
It was great to win the tournament and not just because if had broken the drought of no NZ winners.
“To me it is just very special to win that tournament and that [Brodie Breeze] trophy.
“Whether or not it has not been won by a Kiwi for a long time doesn’t really worry me. I was dead keen to win the trophy.
“The NZ public and golf fans around the country are obviously going to be really chuffed to have a Kiwi winner and I’m obviously chuffed that that Kiwi is going to be me.”
Hendry went into the final round three shots behind leader Ben Campbell and carded a final-round 2-under 69, while Kennedy had par 71 and Campbell went 1-over.
The three players fought it out over the final holes with Kennedy and Campbell hitting birdies on the 17th to tie it up.
All three men finished on 19-under on a day on which scoring was tough in the chilly conditions and tricky greens.
Hendry, who won NZ$178,000 for the victory, says the two eagles he made on Saturday were the difference between winning and losing the tournament.
He felt crook for most of the week – having to spend a lot of time on the toilet in between rounds and his back was also playing up.
The win has been a long time coming and he felt it was on the back of some solid play in the past year. He planned a couple of quiet beers to celebrate last night with family and friends and had a month off now to sit back and soak up the win before heading off to the Japan Tour.
Campbell will be hoping it is third time lucky this week in Queensland.
Campbell, 25, lost in a playoff last week too, going down to Jarryd Felton at the NZ PGA Championship in Palmerston North.
Campbell, though, has come a long way in the past year as illness ruled him out of the tournament last year.
But he was still somewhat disappointed yesterday after the playoff.
“All and all it is good to finish second and I can’t be too hard on myself,” he says.
“I definitely felt I did not have my A game out there. I had it for one round, the first round.
“But still to finish second and think there is a lot of room of improvement is certainly a good feeling.”
Kennedy says he was disappointed to lose but played well.
“I just got off to a poor start today and when you are chasing like that it was not the start I wanted. I hung tough and I was proud of myself to get back into it.”
Kennedy says he hit his shot at the playoff hole too soft after debating what club to use while Campbell says he tugged it in what was a tough hole.
Otago Daily Times