Date: November 24, 2012
Author: Omnisport

Brown in the box seat

New Zealand Open front-runner Mark Brown admits a nine-year local drought has weighed on his mind all week, saying breaking it would &aposmean everything&apos to him. The tournament is Brown&aposs to lose, given his six-under 66 on Saturday saw him capture sole possession of the lead with 18 holes to go at five-under for the tournament. He has Australians Peter Wilson and Jake Higginbottom lying in wait three strokes back, with another trio of Aussies veteran Peter O&aposMalley, Craig Hancock and Steven Jeffress a further shot back along with Brown&aposs closest compatriot, Michael Hendry. Brown has been under the spotlight all week as the equal pre-tournament favourite and he has felt the weight of expectation. “I was two-over for the tournament through eight holes yesterday and I was really feeling that pressure of trying to get myself into contention,” the world No.383 said. “Being a Kiwi, you want to play well at home so I&aposm sure that&aposll be part of it tomorrow but there&aposs pressure every week on tour. “As long as my game can hold up and I hit the shots I need to hit I&aposll be in with a chance. It&aposll just be a matter of being mentally strong.” Five-under looked a long way off as he struggled with the putter en route to rounds of 72 and 73 in his opening two rounds. But the eagle eyes of a pair of friends on their couches at home spotted something and Brown may forever be in their gratitude. “I tried to make two changes today one was to stay a bit more patient, the other was with my putting,” he said. “(The tip) was to keep a bit stiller over the ball. I have a tendency to look up at times and when it&aposs windy it makes it worse. “I knew I was hitting the ball well, it was just a matter to hole some putts when I needed and today, for the most part, I putted beautifully.” His scintillating first nine of five-under 31 set the tone for the day and he fed off a similar charge one group ahead by Hendry, although Brown&aposs compatriot blew up on the back nine with a 39. “I saw Mike making a charge and obviously he&aposs been playing great. We&aposve been paired together a lot this year so we have spurred each other on,” Brown said. “We&aposve played quite a few practice rounds together and I think both us enjoy that because I think we both respect each others&apos games and the way we play. “Tomorrow I&aposm sure he&aposll be in with a good shout as well.” And if the wind whips up again on Sunday afternoon, which was not the case in the third round until Brown was into the back nine, so much the better. “It probably suits me. I don&apost think anyone enjoys it but I&aposve probably got just as much experience in it as anyone, especially growing up in Wellington,” he said. “My ball flight is pretty low. It&aposs never fun especially around a course like Clearwater where there&aposs trouble and loads of water and there&aposs double bogey lurking around a lot of those holes if you hit a poor shot. I won&apost mind the wind at all.”