Wilkinson returning to game at NZ Open

Tim Wilkinson in action at the 100th New Zealand Open in 2019. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT
Tim Wilkinson in action at the 100th New Zealand Open in 2019. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT
US-based golfer Tim Wilkinson is on a voyage into the unknown when he tees off in the New Zealand Open at Millbrook this week.

The 45-year-old left-hander is making a return to the game after more than two years out following injury and surgery.

He has chosen to make his competitive return at the New Zealand Open, a co-sanctioned event with the Australasian PGA Tour and the Asian Tour, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.

Wilkinson, a former leading amateur, turned professional two decades ago, joining the Nationwide Tour in 2005 and progressing to the PGA Tour in 2008.

He had a meteoric start to the elite level, finishing third in the Zurich Classic and runner-up in the Texas Open.

The Florida-based New Zealander, who has mixed his professional life on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours, has since been hampered by injuries that have tested his resolve.

His knee issues have been the most debilitating, rendering him unable to swing or work out without pain.

Wilkinson elected to get a full repair job, which has required extended time out. Worse, his surgery was delayed five months because of a Covid spike in his home city of Jacksonville.

"I’ve lost a lot of muscle and strained an abductor which caused a lot of inflammation for a long time, and there’s no muscle regrowth nor mobility", Wilkinson said.

"I’ve worked hard on recovery, although I still do not have full mobility back by any means. But I need to get going if I want to keep playing. I can do regular activities but not hit balls to the amount required.

"Coming back to the New Zealand Open was an opportunity to come home — it’s been five years — and an opportunity to play competitively."

He has not played in the New Zealand Open since 2019, and he tied for 11th in 2018.

Wilkinson has not played the revamped and extended Millbrook course, and is putting no pressure on himself this week.

"I could be pushing it slightly but I just have no idea how I am going to play. I can hit all the balls I want but until I tee it up in a tournament, I have no idea. It will be a good baseline to see how I am playing.

"Four rounds in the 60s would be good. Play solidly and be composed — but I am not getting ahead of myself. But the drive is still there to play at the highest level."

Wilkinson will be among the field of 156 players who will all be looking to claim their share of the $2 million purse.

— Staff reporter