Sage Advice for Kiwi Hope and Former Champion Returns

Kiwi Daniel Hiller will enter the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sports, starting on Thursday, with some advice from his country’s No.1 men’s golfer firmly in his mind.

While Ryan Fox is unable to be at Millbrook Resort while he contests his first full year on the PGA Tour, his influence remains strong with young New Zealanders like Hillier, who was a winner on the DP World Tour for the first time in 2023 at the British Masters.

Fox’s tip to Hillier is simple and current for any week on tour – don’t change anything in his game to suit the golf course.

“There will be golf courses out there that suit me more than the others,” Hillier, the world No.150, said.

“I have played pretty well here in the past so if I play my game, and have a solid plan that I can trust and execute, hopefully you will see my name near the top of the leaderboard.”

In four starts on the DP World Tour in 2004, Hillier has made three cuts with a best finish of T23 at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

He was equal 12th in his home open last year, five shots behind the winner, Brendan Jones,  after shooting four rounds in the 60s.

“My form has been okay. I haven’t played my best stuff for the first part of the year,” he said at today’s pre-tournament media conference.

“I know there is a long year ahead so I am not too fazed how the year has started. It would be nice for everything to click this week as it is obviously an exciting week ahead.

“The course is pure as always which is great. The rough is a little bit up a bit but I did not spend much time in it today so hopefully I can keep that up.”

Hillier was part of an interesting practice group pairing today, joining rookie Kazuma Kobori who has already claimed three Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia victories this year to lead the Order of Merit and be in touching distance of claiming a 2024/25 DP World Tour card.

“He is really impressive to watch and you can see why he has done so well in Aussie this year,” Hillier said of his countryman.

“You can see he wants to get his hands on the trophy as well. I’m playing the first two rounds with him as well so we will be seeing a bit of each other.”

The star NZ duo will be on the Remarkables course on Thursday morning followed by the Coronet layout on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile Australian Brad Kennedy is no stranger to having his name up in lights, having won two New Zealand Opens, his first in 2011 and his second in 2020.

A seasoned golfer having just turned 50, Kennedy reflects on a challenging period as he prepares for the tournament this week. Having faced injuries and a three-month hiatus from the game, he draws confidence from his successes.

“I haven’t played in three months and I had a tricky end to last season,” Kennedy said, “I was injured through the middle of last year and I had eight events to keep my card.

“I still managed to do well… I take a lot of confidence from what I was able to achieve in a short time.”

The New Zealand Open holds a special place in Kennedy’s heart with Millbrook Resort feeling like a second home with the unique atmosphere the tournament brings.

“I feel comfortable here. The courses are similar here, the atmosphere that New Zealand brings is so different. The golf course is a bit like Japan and allows you to play how you want to play.

“They are not tricked up and not making you be the person you are not. Just being able to plan a strategy here gives you the comfort that you can compete.”

A staple in his schedule, the tournament not only represents an event but a vision that impacts the entire community, emphasising the significance of enjoying the essence of golf.

“This tournament is never off the schedule, it is the first one I stamp.

“It is not just an event, it is a bunch of people who put in a vision to create this format. Sometimes you have to just step away and enjoy the part of golf that this event gives you.”

The 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sports tees off on Thursday with a cut for the top 60 professionals plus tied for the final two rounds on the weekend.

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