Matthew Griffin overcame the nerves on the last green to snatch victory in the New Zealand Open in Queenstown.
The Australian was one shot behind the leader Hideto Tanihara of Japan going to the last hole of The Hills course but it ended up being a two-shot swing as Griffin made birdie and Tanihara made bogey.
Tanihara’s tee shot at the 18th went into the rough while Griffin hit his approach shot to close range of the pin but admitted it was still a very missable putt.
Said Griffin: “I hit a wedge to a nice, close range, long enough to still miss, so it was nice to roll it in. With Tanihara it was a bit unfortunate as his drive just rolled over and went into the rough.
“It was the most nervous I’ve been. I did a lot of deep breathing on the green and it was a nice putt.”
Griffin began the final day of the tournament, sponsored by BMW and ISPS Handa, two shots behind Tanihara and admitted he was nervous from the outset. But an eagle on the first hole soon calmed him.
“You’re always nervous on the first tee,” he said.
“I hit a couple of shots in close and it really settled the nerves.”
Nearing the finish Griffin said he tried his hardest to close the gap on Tanihara but it didn’t happen despite some good shots.
“I took on 16 and 17 as I knew I was behind and hit good spots but only came up with pars – but the last was a great way to finish.”
The win was Griffin’s sixth as a professional and it earned him $180,000. But he was just pleased to perform in front of so many of his personal supporters.
“My girlfriend Liz, family and friends are here, the celebrations are going to be pretty big,’’ he said.
“It’s the first time that my parents have travelled overseas to see me play and it’s the biggest amount of people I’ve had at any event. There will be a drink out of that trophy before the night is over.
“This is by far the biggest event I’ve won. To win the New Zealand Open, it’s got so many good names on the trophy, it’s a real step forward for me.”
Griffin had rounds of 70, 65, 65 and 67 to finish at 20-under par for the tournament which also included one round at the nearby Millbrook course.
Tanihara had rounds of 69, 66, 63 and 70 to finish at 19 under. He ended up in a bunker on the last hole but remained confident he would get down in two shots.
“When it went in the bunker I thought it would be okay,’’ Tanihara said.
“I wasn’t particularly worried and it wasn’t a shock. However, the last putt I had, I thought it was going to go and I just came up a bit too short which was a shame.
“That’s the way that golf goes, there are many good players here. Out of 144 only one can win. I would like to try the same challenge again in the future.’’
Finishing tied for third, and six shots off the lead, were Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japan’s Shunsuke Sonoda. Hendry gave the home fans something to cheer about by scoring a seven-under par in his final round.
Fifth was Yoshinori Fujimoto of Japan on 13-under while Steven Alker of New Zealand was one shot back in sixth.
Rounding out the top-10 on 11-under the card were Australians Deyen Lawson, Todd Sinnott, Matthew Giles and Rory Bourke.
The tournament’s leading amateur, the winner of the Bledisloe Cup, was 17-year-old Daniel Hillier from Wellington. He did not make the cut but finished at one over par after two rounds.
The winners of the pro-am component of the tournament were Deyen Lawson and his amateur partner Anton Booy. Lawson picks up a bonus NZ$12,000 for his team’s effort.
1,AUSVIC,Matthew Griffin ,-20,F,-5,70,65,65,67,267
T3,NZL,Michael Hendry ,-14,F,-7,71,71,66,65,273
T7,AUSVIC,Deyen Lawson ,-11,F,-6,70,65,75,66,276
T7,AUSNSW,Matthew Giles ,-11,F,-5,72,68,69,67,276
T7,AUSVIC,Rory Bourke ,-11,F,-4,69,70,69,68,276
T11,AUSNSW,Aron Price ,-10,F,-6,70,68,73,66,277
T11,AUSQLD,Adam Blyth ,-10,F,-1,72,69,65,71,277
T14,AUSNSW,Rhein Gibson ,-9,F,-3,71,69,69,69,278
T14,KOR,I J Jang ,-9,F,1,71,68,66,73,278
T16,NZL,Mark Brown ,-8,F,-3,72,71,67,69,279
T16,KOR,Hyun-woo Ryu ,-8,F,-3,70,70,70,69,279
T19,AUSWA,Michael Sim ,-7,F,-1,73,67,69,71,280
T19,AUSQLD,Matthew Guyatt ,-7,F,0,70,68,70,72,280
T19,AUSNSW,James Nitties ,-7,F,1,72,66,69,73,280
T19,KOR,Dongwoo Kang ,-7,F,2,69,70,67,74,280
T23,AUSACT,Matthew Millar ,-6,F,-2,68,70,73,70,281
T25,AUSNSW,Adam Stephens ,-5,F,-4,73,68,73,68,282
T25,RSA,Tjaart van der Walt ,-5,F,-4,73,69,72,68,282
T25,NZL,Craig Palmer ,-5,F,-3,69,72,72,69,282
T25,AUSVIC,Steven Jones ,-5,F,-2,66,76,70,70,282
T25,AUSVIC,Ryan Lynch ,-5,F,-2,73,70,69,70,282
T25,AUSNSW,Peter Fowler ,-5,F,-1,69,71,71,71,282
T25,AUSSA,Brad Moules ,-5,F,0,73,70,67,72,282
T25,KOR,Hyung-Sung Kim ,-5,F,1,74,67,68,73,282
T33,NZL,Daniel Pearce ,-4,F,-1,70,70,72,71,283
T33,NZL,Michael Long ,-4,F,0,72,69,70,72,283
T33,AUSWA,Scott Strange ,-4,F,0,72,70,69,72,283
T33,AUSVIC,Jack Wilson ,-4,F,1,71,72,67,73,283
T37,AUSVIC,Alistair Presnell ,-3,F,-4,69,72,75,68,284
T37,NZL,David Smail ,-3,F,-1,72,69,72,71,284
T37,AUSNSW,Steven Jeffress ,-3,F,0,70,71,71,72,284
T40,AUSTAS,Mathew Goggin ,-2,F,-4,72,69,76,68,285
T40,AUSNSW,Benjamin Clementson ,-2,F,-3,74,69,73,69,285
T40,AUSWA,Daniel Fox ,-2,F,-2,71,70,74,70,285
T40,AUSNSW,Mitchell A. Brown ,-2,F,-1,71,69,74,71,285
T45,NZL,Nick Gillespie ,-1,F,-2,72,70,74,70,286
T45,AUSQLD,Taylor Macdonald ,-1,F,1,75,67,71,73,286
T45,NZL,Joshua Munn ,-1,F,2,67,74,71,74,286
T48,NZL,Shaun Jones ,0,F,-2,70,72,75,70,287
T48,AUSVIC,Ben Eccles ,0,F,1,73,68,73,73,287
T48,AUSVIC,David McKenzie ,0,F,3,73,70,69,75,287
T54,JPN,Naomi Ohta ,3,F,3,70,71,74,75,290
T54,AUSNSW,Jordan Mullaney ,3,F,6,70,71,71,78,290
T57,AUSNSW,Neven Basic ,4,F,0,75,68,76,72,291
T57,KOR,Soon Sang Hong ,4,F,0,73,70,76,72,291
T57,AUSVIC,Anthony Brown ,4,F,4,68,72,75,76,291
T57,AUSNSW,Callan O'Reilly ,4,F,11,67,72,69,83,291
61,AUSNSW,Darren Beck ,5,F,2,69,73,76,74,292