Jones admits fairy tale New Zealand Open defence ‘far-fetched’

Defending champion Brendan Jones doesn’t expect to win this week’s 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport.

No matter his affinity for the Millbrook Resort just outside Queenstown, Jones knows that the odds are stacked against him. He knows that fairytales rarely come with sequels.

Yet despite the prospect of leaving New Zealand on Monday without the Brodie Breeze trophy that now bears his name as the 2023 Champion, Jones is ready to revel in everything that comes with being the defending champion.

And while having his face plastered across posters is unfamiliar for a veteran with 15 victories on the Japan Golf Tour to his name, Jones is savouring an experience he knows doesn’t come along too often.

“I am confident of putting in a good showing but to say I am going to defend and be a two-time New Zealand Champion is a bit far-fetched,” said Jones, who was runner-up to Kazuma Kobori at the Webex Players Series Sydney earlier this month.

“The only thing that I’ve been thinking about is that I will be flying back to Australia on Monday not as the current New Zealand Open champ and that is making me a little sad.

“I’ve still got four days of golf in front of me and if I do what I did last year, then who knows? It was a bit of a fairytale for me last year.

“I have won a lot of tournaments around the place but not too many when I understand what’s going on because in Japan I don’t speak Japanese and they don’t really want to talk to me the next year.

“This is special. This is my favourite golf tournament to play anywhere in the world and I’m coming back to my favourite place in the world. It’s just exciting to be back.”

Another player excited to be back in Queenstown is local favourite Steven Alker. A phenomenon since joining the PGA TOUR Champions in late 2021, Alker is also a realist when it comes to opportunities to win his national open.

Alker shot 65 in Round 1 at Millbrook a year ago before finishing tied for 30th. Now 52 years of age, Alker wants to parlay his eight wins on the Champions Tour in the past three years into a treasured victory on home soil.

“I am still competitive. I am still playing professional golf,” said Alker, who will have wife Tanya on the bag this week for the first time since the 2014 US Open. “There is probably not too many left in me, so just to come back to play and compete in New Zeeland when we are in New Zealand… It is a special place to come back to.”

At the other end of the career spectrum, much attention this week will be centred on rookie Kazuma Kobori. A three-time winner this season on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, Kobori is all but guaranteed a spot on the DP World Tour for the 2025 season, Alker a keen observer from the other side of the world.

“I have been reading the press and how he has been playing,” said Alker. “It’s very impressive if you compare it with what Tiger Woods did when he was young and started his career, although on a different level.

“To win events at his age as a professional is impressive. I wouldn’t have ever dreamt of that when turning pro but the young guys coming out now seem to be ready to play and hungry to win. “He has obviously got talent which is great and being from New Zealand is even better.”

Round one of the 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport tees off at 7:40am NZT on Thursday morning with 156 professionals looking to claim their share of the $2M NZD prize purse.

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