Murray comes of age by winning the New Zealand Open

Sun 03 Mar 2019

Murray comes of age by winning the New Zealand Open


Queenstown, New Zealand, March 3: Australian rookie Zach Murray signaled his arrival on the biggest stage when he became the third fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour after closing with a four-under-par 68 to become the newest champion of the New Zealand Open on Sunday.

It was a wire-to-wire victory for the 21-year-old and his breakthrough was made even sweeter as it was his first professional win, achieved in what was only his third start on the Asian Tour at the NZ$1,250,000 (Approx. US$850,000) event.

Murray saw his five-shot lead after the second round reduced to just one after the third round. But the Australian responded on the day that mattered most with a sublime performance that saw him lift the New Zealand Open trophy by two shots over closest challengers Josh Geary of New Zealand and compatriot Ashley Hall at The Hills.

Murray birdied the second before reeling off seven successive pars to turn in 35. He added another birdie on the 10 but would give it back on the next following a bogey. The young talent however soared with an eagle-birdie-birdie run from 13 to pull clear of Geary and Hall.

Murray, who held a three-shot lead coming down the 72nd hole, had to hit his third shot from behind the television tower but a two-putt bogey was good enough to ensure his triumph at the storied event, that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS PGA Tour of Australasia.

Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond enjoyed another solid result on the Asian Tour by signing off with a bogey-free 66 to finish in fourth place. The Thai has never finished outside the top-10 since he lifted his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening event in Singapore in January.

A total of 152 professionals and 152 amateurs took part in the event where the first two rounds were alternated between the par-71 course at Millbrook Resort and the par-72 course at The Hills. The 62 players, who made the halfway cut on Friday, competed in the final two rounds at The Hills.

Did you know?

  • Zach Murray of Australia is the third fastest rookie to win after Kane Webber (2006 Macao Open) and Todd Sinnott (2017 Leopalace Myanmar Open), who both won on their second starts on Tour.
  • Murray will take home a winner’s cheque of AUD$211,724 (approx. US$149,964) and receive a total of 15 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.
  • Murray secured his 2019 Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School last December after finishing fourth in the 90-hole event.
  • Murray won the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open (an event on the PGA Tour of Australasia) as an amateur golfer in October 2018. One month later, he made his professional debut at the Australian Open.
  • Murray was ranked as high as 19th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
  • Murray marked his lowest round yet as a professional with his opening 63 at Millbrook Resort. He was in a three-way tie for lead after 18 holes but a second round 65 at The Hills saw him move five shots clear of the field in what is his debut appearance in the long-running event. He would follow up with a third-round 70 to retain a one-shot lead heading into the final round.
  • Murray is playing in only his third start on the Asian Tour this season.
  • Murray hails from Victoria, Australia. He is in Queenstown this week for the first time.
  • Ashley Hall is a three-time winner on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia in 2007, 2009 and 2016.
  • The 35-year-old Hall played on the Asian Tour in 2007 and 2008. He also played on the Tour from 2013 to 2015, where he came in runner-up twice.
  • In 2018, he regained his Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School but played only two events that season.
  • After firing five straight birdies in his closing six holes in the third round, Hall continued his hot bogey-free streak before dropping a shot on his 72nd hole.
  • Josh Geary, 34, is a one-time winner on the Canadian Tour. He won the Saskatchewan Open at Dakota Dunes Resort and Casino in Saskatoon in 2008.
  • Prior to turning professional in 2007, Geary enjoyed an illustrious amateur career where he represented New Zealand in the bi-annual World Amateur team event - Eisenhower Trophy in 2004 and 2006.
  • Geary has recorded five professional victories, including three in 2015.
  • Jazz Janewattananond closed with a stunning bogey-free 64, highlighted by four birdies and two eagles on 13 and 17. He had dropped only one shot in his last 36 holes at The Hills. He made a total of three eagles this week, including an eagle-three on the first hole at The Hills in the opening round.
  • Jazz leads the latest Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings and is playing in his first New Zealand Open this week.
  • Jazz broke into the world’s top-100 for the first time in his career after claiming his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open last month. That victory also earned him a coveted spot in The Open, where he made his Major debut last year.