The final day was going to be a challenge to try and apply some scoreboard pressure to the leader and hope he might come back a little giving the chasers a chance. To his credit though he withstood the pressure and rose to the challenge like a champion does. For that reason the overnight leader had his first win on Tour. He is a young guy, Adam Stephens who has battled a bit and even contemplated giving it away this year when things weren't going well. He recently started working with my coach Murray Lott and told me it has made a massive difference. I can definitely understand that!! I was very excited for him.
My day was almost a carbon copy of my week with the exception being I saved my worst putting day for the last day. I managed 1 over in the wind which normally isn't too bad when it blows around this course but when you are chasing that just doesn't cut it. I missed a short putt on the first hole after playing a sublime chip shot and my already beaten confidence with the putter took an early hit! From there I played great creating good chances for birdies at three of the next 5 holes but making none of them. At the 8th I missed another short putt and found myself 2 over, not what I was looking for. A great par save at the 9th saw me turn at 2 over, needing a special back nine to close out the week.
One of the real positives of the week has been my chipping, I have really found something there and am very excited to go and do some serious work on it to improve even more. After a year of struggles with my short game it is nice to be turning that aspect of it around!
The back nine starts with a short par 4 and I hit a great drive to find the green from the tee. My eagle chance was very difficult and I had to settle for a birdie. A perfect tee shot on 11 set up a pitching wedge to the green that I hit to 4 foot for another birdie. That was the start I needed. A good tee shot on 12 set up another chance from 15ft but as has been the case all week I just ran it over the hole. Very frustrating on the greens this week after having a really solid Qld Open with the putter. Sometimes it's the putting but sometimes it can be that the reading of the greens is a little off. I think my best bet is to not worry too much about it and move on as frustrating as it was.
I hit a great drive down the 13th which set up a 5 iron to the par 5 green. It was a shot I went for but just missed the green to the right by 10 feet and it caught the bank and sent my ball hurtling some 50m down the hill under a tree. My third hit the tree and went backwards leaving a pitch from a horrendous lie up a massive hill to the green for my 4th. It came up short and I managed to get it up and in for a disappointing bogie to kill my momentum.
A well played 14th hole gave me another look at birdie but as was so often the case this week it just slid by. The 15th is a short par 4 and in the final round they moved the tees forward to entice us to have a crack at the green from the tee. It was 248m to the front edge with the wind coming from behind and left. The difficulty with having a crack is that it is a small target and if you miss it you may be unplayable as the ball cannons off the hill the green is set on and down into the trees and scrub. My playing partners both laid up but I decided to go for it. I chose 3 wood and ripped it! It just went slightly right on the wind but fortunately found the deep bunker on the side of the hill, the last stop before certain trouble. It is an incredibly deep bunker but I pride myself on my bunker play, especially a long bunker shot and I played a great shot to excite the crowd, easy birdie. Two good shots on 16 set up a chance from 16 feet but another near miss. I hit 8 iron into the 17th, a 156m par three but despite it being the best iron shot of the day it bounced through the green and just long. A pretty easy two putt par and I was off to the 18th. My drive found the left rough which isn't good on that hole as it doglegs hard to the right. It left me 197m to the green and given the grass behind the ball I decided that I would hit 4 iron hoping for a little "flyer". It didn't come unfortunately and despite hitting it straight at the flag, it came up short. It was in a horrible spot as my third was going to have to run along the edge of a tier with an error either side meaning the ball would run away left or right! I found the line perfectly but it just ran out of speed and fell down the slope to the right. A tough putt to make so I had to settle with a bogie 5 and my 1 over par round. Pleasingly though when the scores were all in I managed to finished in tied 10th, my first top ten for a while.
So all in all a really positive week. My love of the shot making challenges out there made my week more enjoying and mentally I was really good for the exception of a slight slip on the back nine in the final round. Still improvement possible there when the pressure was really on, but overall big steps forward. I look forward to my day off today before the next 5 days straight of pro ams in Brisbane. Really looking forward to seeing my coach too as it's been about 5 weeks since we have caught up!!
That's all from New Cal.....until next year!! Love this place.