Mahal Pearce, the last New Zealander to win the NZ Open,
predicts a Kiwi golfer will do it again at Clearwater this
It's been a barren run for New Zealand's best since Pearce
won the title at Middlemore in 2003.
Last year's winner and runner-up, Australians Brad Kennedy
and Craig Perry, are not back in a field which lacks some of
the quality of past Opens.
"You've got a very good chance of a Kiwi taking it out," said
"Mark Brown's in great form, Mike Hendry's in great form,
Gareth Paddison, and David Smail. If not this year, then
there's something wrong."
Brown and Hendry are his picks. Brown seemed to be "pretty
calm and collected at the minute and he's got things very
well sorted. And Mike Hendry, you never know with him, he can
shoot some low numbers. Those two are my bet."
Pearce, 35, said he'd not played a lot all year. He played
his first tournament of 2012 in Perth a few weeks ago and was
a bit rough, but was "pretty pleased" with a marked
improvement last week, he said.
Clearwater was a course that had grown on him over the years,
he said. He did not like it initially, but they'd made a lot
of changes around the greens with the run-offs and aspects
like that, and improved it fantastically.
"I've played a lot of rounds around here now. I hope I can
figure out a way to play it after all those. I don't mind it
now, it's a challenge, and if the wind gets up, like any golf
course it's going to be pretty tough, but if conditions stay
pretty calm there will be some low scores."
When Pearce won the 2003 Open the tournament was worth
$700,000 "and it grew after that with Tiger coming", he said.
This time it's worth Aust $400,000, and Pearce said a lot was
going to be said about the prize money.
But it was difficult times for sport in New Zealand: "This is
a one-off week and it's hard for a major corporate to come
along and say we'll give you a million dollars, whereas they
could go and spend a million dollars on the Warriors and get
25, 26 weeks of exposure. So you've got to realise that sort
The joint favourites for the title are New Zealand's Hendry
(who heads the Australasian PGA tour earnings list this year
with $198,233) and Brown (third with $114,287) and Australian
- By Nick Tolerton of The Star