No expectations for Kobori except to have fun

Golden Boy very much wants to get his hands on the silverware at the New Zealand Open this week.

But, really, all Kazuma Kobori wants to do is have fun.

The next big thing in New Zealand golf does not appear to have changed much at all since he tied for sixth as an amateur at Millbrook a year ago and charmed everyone who met him.

Surprising, really, given the Rangiora 22-year-old has since turned professional, matched one Tiger Woods by winning three of his first 10 tournaments, banked some handy cash and got one foot on the elite DP World Tour.

Our heads are spinning. Is his?

"Golf’s a funny game," Kobori said with his trademark smile yesterday.

"I’ve got no expectations this week. I’m just going to have fun. It’s such a good week to be out here, and if I play good golf, that’s cool too.

"I just want to let my game take over.

"I never have a hard time with intensity. I always give it 100%. But when you try to do too much, and things don’t go your way — which, in this game, happens frequently — you can get a bit frustrated."

Unsurprisingly, he described his form as sound.

Kobori is fresh off three wins on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia since turning professional in October.

He gave himself a much-deserved week off before coming to Queenstown and is feeling refreshed and ready.

Life has changed — he is on the brink of qualifying for a tour where he will rub shoulders with some of the best golfers in the world — but his feet are on the ground.

"It’s got to the point where I’m a bit more comfortable with the people around me, and I kind of know everyone here.

"I’m feeling awesome. To be honest, my game is in a pretty good spot. I don’t think I need to do anything too major or too different."

Kobori said the life of a professional had been everything he expected.

Kazuma Kobori of New Zealand looks on from the 17th green during the Final Day of Webex Players...
Kazuma Kobori of New Zealand looks on from the 17th green during the Final Day of Webex Players Series Sydney at Castle Hill Country Club on February 11, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Getty Images
"I’ve experienced mostly highs, but I’ve seen some lows. For the most part, I’m enjoying how my life is going so far."

Kobori sits second on the Australian Order of Merit, eyeing a top-three finish to earn a spot on the DP World Tour.

There he would join fellow New Zealander Daniel Hillier, who has been delighted to see the rise of his young compatriot and his playing partner for the first two rounds of the Open.

"We played a practice round together today," Hillier said.

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

Hillier tied for 12th at Millbrook last year but hinted he would need to lift his game a little this week.

"My form’s been OK. I haven’t had my best stuff for the first couple of months of this year but I know there’s a long year ahead.

"It would be nice for everything to click this week.

"The course is pure, as always, which is great. I’ve heard from a lot of people the rough is up a little bit. If the weather stays like this, it’s going to get pretty fiery by the weekend.

"You can have some pretty low scores out here, and putting is a pretty big part of that. That hasn’t always been a strength of my game but it’s definitely coming along."

He is rocking a moustache this week and joked that was because he looked like a 15-year-old boy without it.

Hillier retained his DP World Tour status by winning his maiden title, the British Masters, in July and finishing 30th on the Order of Merit.