Course ‘could get fiery’

Daniel Hillier of New Zealand plays a shot during day one of the 2023 New Zealand Open at...
Daniel Hillier of New Zealand plays a shot during day one of the 2023 New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort on March 02, 2023 in Queenstown, New Zealand. PHOTO: HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES
Kiwi golf pro Daniel Hillier is not ruling out a few mind games this week.

The 25-year-old played a practice round at Millbrook Resort, ahead of the New Zealand Open, on Tuesday with rising star Kazuma Kobori, with whom he’s playing the first two rounds of the 103rd tournament.

"He’s really impressive to watch; you can see why he’s done so well in Aussie this year.

"Obviously he’s going to be wanting to get his hands on that trophy as well ... [I] might have to get the mind games going."

The 2023 Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year rates his form coming in to the Open as "OK", noting he hasn’t hit his best stuff over the past couple of months.

He’s hoping, though, everything might click for him this week, but is heeding some advice from fellow Kiwi pro, Ryan Fox.

"The biggest thing for me ... is just not to change anything from my game to try and suit a golf course.

"There are going to be golf courses out there that suit me more than others, and I think I’ve played pretty well here in the past.

"Obviously I’ve just got to play my game and make sure that I’ve got a solid plan that I can trust and execute, and hopefully we’ll see my name near the top of the leaderboard."

Hillier, sporting a "pretty filthy" moustache for this week’s tourney, quipping without it he looks "like a 15-year-old’, says if the weather stays fine he’s expecting the course to get "pretty dry and fiery by the weekend".

"I guess it all depends on the conditions, but you can have some pretty low scores out here and I think putting’s a big part of that.

"It’s not always been a strength of my game, but it’s definitely coming along, so hopefully I can get the putter nice and warm this week ... make a few more birdies and get me up the leaderboard."