Golf: Top players in Otatara tournament

Manawatu-Wanganui and Auckland will start as favourites when 65 of New Zealand's top golfers tee off in the SBS Golf Invitational tournament on the Otatara course in Invercargill this morning.

The teams finished tied after 72 holes in last year's event and it required three extra holes before Joshua Munn holed a 20m downhill putt for a birdie 3 to clinch the win for Manawatu-Wanganui.

Munn leads a strong team this year which includes Tyler Hodge at No 2, his brother Trent Munn at No 3, as well as Junior Tatana, who is well known to Dunedin spectators after losing a playoff to decide the Toro title at Balmacewen last December.

Tasman and Wellington could well threaten to take the title, after finishing third and fifth last year. Both have fielded strong stroke play quintets this year.

Southland once again has a strong team and should rise to the occasion with home advantage.

However, after winning the Toro in Gisborne in 2011, Southland did not fare well last year, finishing in a tie for seventh with Taranaki.

Southland is without the services of Mat Tautari, who was player of the tournament in the Toro in Gisborne after winning all eight matches.

Tautari is at odds with the Southland administration and intends to play for Aorangi, after serving the mandatory three-month stand down for switching provinces.

Otago needs to improve on last year's ninth placing. No 1 Brent McEwan is the only survivor from the 2012 team.

Nic Borren is in Europe and Thomas Facer in Perth while Tony Giles did not trial for this event.

Kayne Wardell is the first representative from the small Allan Grange Club and will make his debut at No 2 while Mitch Bosley (Wanaka) has shown solid strokeplay form and regains his place in the top five.

Toro titleholder Bay of Plenty and North Harbour have snubbed the tournament for the second time and have been joined by Waikato as absentees this year.

The field has been strengthened with the inclusion of a trainee professional team, led by former Tasman No 1 Sean Riordan.

The local trainee is Cody Harper who was also a member of the 2011 winning Southland team and he should relish playing on his home course.