Golf: Brown escapes the cold for Scotland

Mark Brown will head in to next week's Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland feeling cold - physically and form-wise.

The Kiwi golfer has just experienced his first winter in more than half a decade after having no events to play for the past couple of months, which means he has had to brave the elements in the cooler part of the year and also has no idea how his form sits in a tournament setting.

When times were good for Brown he enjoyed a four-year stint on the European Tour between 2008-2011 as he travelled from summer to summer.

He also spent 10 weeks in the Northern Hemisphere during New Zealand's winter last year to play a handful of tournaments on the second-tier Challenge Tour and escape the cold.

But with full status on the OneAsia and Australasian PGA tours this year, Brown moved from Lower Hutt to Tauranga in February and stayed put.

"This is the first winter I've had in about six or seven years, I think," Brown said.

"Well it's better in Tauranga than it is in Wellington so I moved up there this year for that reason thinking I was going to be here over winter. So it's a lot more bearable than Wellington at this time of year."

Brown, who has played the Open once before in 2009 but missed the cut, could have gone back to Europe this year and chased some qualifiers to get starts on the Challenge Tour but it was never a realistic option.

He secured his spot in the Open Championship - which starts on Thursday night (NZT) - via a qualifying tournament in Melbourne in January and decided to park up in New Zealand during the winter.

"I just thought I'd stay here and get as fit as I could and work hard on the game and spend some good hours practicing. I've managed to do that and I thought that would be more valuable to just feel a bit fresher mentally and physically."

Having not had a full-time caddy for the past two years, Brown will have friend and Tauranga Golf Club pro Jay Carter on the bag at the Muirfield Links next week, which is a course the 38-year-old has never played before.

"He knows the game, he knows the shots, he knows my game, he's been studying up on the course a little bit so he'll definitely add value and that's what I'll need in this tournament, I think," Brown said of his caddy, who was also on the bag in Melbourne when he won his spot in the Open.

Brown's experience playing links golf during his time on the European Tour should put him in good stead for the Open and he was typically understated as he assessed his own chances of playing among the world's best.

He also drew some inspiration from fellow Kiwi Steven Alker who finished in a share of 19th last year after getting a start via a qualifying tournament.

"You're in the field and you've got a chance, you know and you get a good side of the draw hopefully and if you play well there's no reason why you can't have a good finish, Stevie showed that," Brown said.

"But I'll be looking forward to that, obviously you have to play well but the game's there, it's coming right, it's been a pretty slow start to the year, mainly because I haven't played many tournaments, I haven't got much momentum up. But the game's not actually too far away, so hopefully we'll get it to click next week."

Brown sits 46th on the Australian PGA Tour's order of merit this year and is 37th on the OneAsia standings. After playing the Open he will stay in Europe for a few weeks before returning to tournament play in Australia and Asia next month when their tours resume after the winter break.


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