Brendan Jones realises dream with New Zealand Open victory

Australian Brendan Jones timed his run perfectly to claim his first win in four years at the 102nd New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport.

The 48-year-old, who only just survived the cut after two rounds of 69, produced a standout 62 on Saturday and then drained back-to-back birdies late on Sunday afternoon when it seemed a stacked leaderboard was destined for a playoff.

There would be few more popular winners of this event than Jones, a perpetual ambassador for Queenstown and the New Zealand Open in Japan, where he is considered the most successful foreigner to have played on the Japanese tour.

Jones began the day four shots behind compatriot Shae Wools-Cobb, but the overnight leader would go on to shoot the worst Sunday round of the field to leave the throne vacant for a host of challengers.

Japan’s Tomoyo Ikemura and Terumichi Kakazu, Australians Chris Wood and John Lyras, Korean Jaewoong Eom and Queenstown professional Ben Campbell were amongst those lining up for a piece of the Brodie Breeze trophy.

Jones, playing not far from where the Otago gold rush started, staked his claim with a two-putt birdie on 14 before a tap-in birdie on the par 3 15th.

He survived a loose approach on 17 to push his lead out to three and then rolled in a short par putt on 18 before wiping champagne, and possibly a few tears, from his eyes.

“This is just incredible, I’ve been supporting this event for many years and I’ve’ always said to myself as long as my bum is pointing to the ground, I’ll never win it,” said Jones.

“I don’t know what to think. When you are out there playing you aren’t thinking about winning, you are just thinking about playing. I hit a lot of good shots through the middle of the round, made some clutch par saves on a few of the holes coming in.”

Jones hit “the two best shots of my life” to make vital birdies down the stretch and edge away from the pack, he said.

Local hope Campbell, who was part of a dramatic play-off before finishing runner-up to Michael Hendry in 2017, loves hunting thar in the surrounding hills and made a headlong charge of his own before a double-bogey on the par 3 15th halted his progress.

“I really wanted to shoot -8 today. I thought if I got to 18-under it would be a good score. I just had that in mind – Jonesy is a very good finisher and you know he isn’t going to go backwards too fast. Whether I pushed a little too hard – it is what it is,” he said.

Campbell finished tied for second with Lyras, Eom and Ikamura.

Harry Hillier produced the low round of the day, bouncing back from a humble 73 on Saturday to shoot an eight-under 63.

Hillier is no stranger to going low, including a round of 59 at his home course Te Puke five weeks ago.

“I shot 59, 60, 60 a few weeks ago but it was a bit more nerve-wracking here than it was at little old Te Puke course,” Hillier said.

“I hit it good all week but just made a few putts today. The first three rounds I struggled on the greens all week but today it clicked. My caddie Keegan kept me cool all week.”

Hillier has a series of tournaments in Argentina in his plans, with the ultimate goal of making it to the Korn Ferry and PGA Tours.

“It’s a long way to go and I have to keep grinding.”

Rangiora’s Kazuma Kobori’s title hopes were dented by bogeys in his first two holes, but the 21-year-old, who had been impressive on and off the course all week, rebounded to finish tied for sixth and claim the Bledisloe Cup as the leading amateur.

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