Kennedy joins illustrious company with second New Zealand Open title

Australian Brad Kennedy has joined a select club of New Zealand Open multiple winners with victory at Millbrook Resort, near Queenstown.

The 45-year-old, who started the day two shots behind compatriot Lucas Herbert and Korean teenager Joohyung Kim, climbed to the top of the leaderboard with five holes remaining on the end of a run of three straight birdies.

His closing 63 equalled the low round of the day and saw him win by two shots from Herbert, with Australian Nick Flanagan in third place, a further two shots back.

Herbert seemed well on track to claim his second win in as many months, but the par 3 13th proved unlucky for him after he found the water and ended up with a double bogey.

Kennedy won the New Zealand Open at Christchurch’s Clearwater course in 2011, and the New Zealand PGA Championship in 2016.

He’s the first multiple winner of the Brodie Breeze trophy since Greg Turner in 1997, and the first Australian to achieve the feat since Bob Shearer in 1981.

“I just gutsed it out and really tried to play within my game as much as I could. I just let my putter do the talking today and I’m just relieved, and to do this again after nine years is just unbelievable,” he said.

“I didn’t look at a leaderboard all day. I actually posted a number in my head last night, 21 was the number, and I didn’t think I’d reach it but I just knew that this course was out there to be had, the course is playing unbelievable.”

Kennedy was on the rebound after a horror Queensland PGA Championship two weeks ago where he let a four shot lead slip with three holes to play.

“I was gutted after the Queensland PGA, I actually didn’t want to play last week, I was that mentally destroyed by what happened. To do that today under that sort of pressure and overcome that, I’m just really proud of what I did today.

“I’d always said 2020 was my last year. I’ve been playing 25 years on Tour and it was time to get home and spend some more time with my kids and wife. Who knows now? If I can still do it at 45 then I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Herbert was weighing up the positives of finishing runner-up despite not playing his best golf in Queenstown.

“Obviously I had the win in Dubai and then to back it up with another top-five finish was really pleasing and realistically I didn’t have my best stuff this week. To finish second you’ve got to look at the positives and I sort of can’t slouch too much at that,” he said.

“Brad’s played great out there today. He shot 8-under and kind of deserves to win given how well he played. He made the birdies when he needed to and he played the tough holes better than I did.”

Flanagan also paid credit to his compatriot.

“I don’t think there was any catching Brad out there today. He was pretty unbelievable. There was just a couple of pressure shots that I kind of messed up coming in but I battled for third which is still a great week. If someone had told me that at the start of the week it would have been great.”

Teenage prodigy Kim could only manage a one-under 70 to fade to fourth, four bogeys blotting his round.

New Zealanders Michael Hendry and Harry Bateman both shot four-under 67s for a share of fifth place.

Hendry now faces an uncertain immediate future with the Japan Tour in doubt due to the concerns over the coronavirus.

“I’ll be playing here for the next five weeks or so just in local events just trying to get myself ready for Japan. It’s a little up in the air as to whether we’ll be playing early in the season, but hopefully the authorities will get on top of it shortly and we’ll be able to carry on as normal.”

A bogey on the 18th was symptomatic of his putting throughout the tournament.

“The whole week the putter didn’t really gel with me. I just thought to myself, at least give them a chance to go in by getting them to the hole and that was all I tried to do coming in. I had a lot of good shots, but it just didn’t fall my way this week.”

In comparison, Bateman finished with consecutive birdies to card a bogey-free round.

“That’s my best finish ever in a big event. I was really solid, I only had one bad hole where I was in trouble but I made a good up and down and I didn’t have a bogey today. I left a few putts out there, for sure, but had two nice one’s to finish.”

Australian Wade Ormsby and American player Chan Kim finished tied for seventh at 14-under, while New Zealand’s Kieran Muir and Japan’s Ryosuke Kinoshita rounded out the top 10, a further shot back.

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