Queenstown, New Zealand: Brad Kennedy has become a two-time New Zealand Open champion after winning the 101st edition of the tournament at Millbrook Resort.
Kennedy capitalised on perfect scoring conditions with a closing bogey-free eight-under-par 63 for a two-shot victory over fellow-Australian Lucas Herbert.
With twin results of tied third over the past two weeks and the heartbreak of a final round fall at the Queensland PGA Championship still haunting his conscience, Kennedy was determined to set the standard early when he began the final round from two shots back.
“It’s just hard to put into words the emotion I’ve gone through the last two weeks,” Kennedy said. “It felt like I’d lost two events and then to come back and play how I did this week, I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to really understand why the things happened for the reasons why they did. You just never know in this game.
“I think I was chasing today which put me in a really good mindset to continue to attack. I felt like a couple of times in the last few weeks I’d started to play out of what I can do and what I trust where today I really just focused on doing what I needed to do.”
While overnight co-leader Kim Joo-hyung faltered early and Herbert soared into the lead, Kennedy sailed under the radar with birdies at the second, fifth and sixth holes.
A double-bogey from Herbert at 13, and a subsequent run of three birdies from Kennedy from holes 12 to 14 was all it took the 45-year-old to rocket to a three-stroke lead. Yet it wasn’t until he arrived at the 18th hole that he was aware of the position.
“The course played unbelievable over the weekend, and not much breeze, I thought someone could easily shoot a really low one,” he said.
“Under pressure that’s hard, to get out there in the second last group and shoot that score under those conditions. I wasn’t aware of the scoring, because in the past that’s been a negative for me, just to look up and have those emotions affect you, whether you are in front or behind.
“I really made a conscious effort today of head down, wait until it’s finished and then react.”
Nerves filled the scorers hut on 18 as Herbert got within one stroke of the 21-under total set by Kennedy on his approach to the last but yet another wayward tee shot from the Victorian meant the Brodie Breeze Cup would again belong to Kennedy.
This is Kennedy’s 13th professional victory, his fifth on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and his maiden Asian Tour win. He also becomes the first player to win the New Zealand Open twice since Greg Turner in 1997, and the first Australian to win twice since Bob Shearer in 1981.
“I was looking to hang the boots up at the end of this year. I’ve been doing it for 25 years and just wanted to make this year a really positive year to end. I’ve sacrificed a lot, but also my family has sacrificed a lot. I’ve been pretty selfish over the last 15, 20 years playing the game and it just feels now is a good time to get back and watch my girls grow up and spend some time at home.”
The three-time Japan Golf Tour winner will now have the opportunity to return to the Asian Tour schedule next week in Malaysia if he chooses. However, the prospect of time spent at home on the Gold Coast with his wife and two daughters will play a part in the future of Kennedy’s career.
Asian Tour prodigy Kim salvaged a final round of 70 following early errors to finish in fourth place ahead of New Zealand duo Harry Bateman and Michael Hendry at 15-under.