Date: March 25, 2012

Cullen holds on for maiden win

Golf Australia Rookie Squad member Nick Cullen triumphed in the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open on Sunday following a brave performance that signaled the emergence of an exciting star of the future. Left-hander Cullen shot a final round two-over-par 74 to triumph by a stroke from David Smail of New Zealand. Smail, the leader after the first two rounds, closed with a 69 at Emeralda Golf Club. New Zealand s Michael Long, Japan s Yoshikazu Haku, and American David Oh finished tied for third. They ended two shots off the pace with Long carding a 65 — the lowest round of the week — Haku shooting 68 and Oh a 71. Sunday&aposs victory was 27-year-old Cullen s first as a professional and making his success even more distinguished is the fact that the event is jointly sanctioned by OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, and is the season opener for both. This means the world to me,” he said afterwards. “I have been practicing hard and playing well but I didn t know what to expect when I came here. It is only my second time playing in Asia and it s very different compared with playing at home particularly with a different climate and food. Cullen finished with a four-round aggregate of nine-under-par 279 and earned a cheque for U.S. $172,000. He was cruising to victory with a four stroke lead with five holes left, but he let the chasing pack back into the tournament when he triple-bogeyed the par-four 14th. He found trouble off the tee and had to chip back onto the fairway, but then overshot the green with his approach. Over the closing holes he found himself tied for the lead on eight under with Smail, Oh and Haku. However, on the par-five 17th he holed a career putt for birdie from 20 feet. It was a downhill right-to-left breaker, but the man from Adelaide picked his line perfectly to take the lead by one shot. A playoff beckoned on the par- four 18th hole after Cullen&aposs approach shot missed the green to the right, leaving him a difficult up and down. Showing maturity beyond his years, he chipped to five feet and valiantly holed the putt. I haven t holed many putts all week so the last two putts where very timely, said Cullen. Cullen started the day with a four shot lead and was three ahead at the turn. A birdie on 10 appeared to wrap the title up for him before the set back on 14. Cullen s compact fast action swing and gutsy attitude eventually prevailed and has propelled him from obscurity to fame. It is proving to be an outstanding year for the Australian as in January he qualified to play in this summer s Open Championship. Smail, a five-time winner on the Japan Tour, said he hadn t realized how close it was until the 18th. Coming down the last I hadn t really checked the scoreboard, but then I saw that Nick had come back to eight under,” he said. At that stage I was quite surprised and couldn’t believe I had a chance. Still, Smail was pleased with his week and start of the year, although he would like a return to winning ways. I d like to have a win, he said. I haven t had a win for seven years now. To finally stumble home would be nice. For Oh, Sunday proved a long struggle that started with a bogey on the first and ended with one on the 18th. I was battling all day but then Nick made a triple and all of a sudden I m like woah, man and was able to make big putts coming in — on 15, 16 and 17, he said. “But but unfortunately that was it.” Indonesia s number one golfer Rory Hie ended as the leading local player. He finished second in this event last year and was delighted with another great tournament which saw him shoot a final round 68 and a tie for ninth place on five under with China s Liang Wenchong, who carded a 69. I am really happy with the way I played today, said Hie I struggled with my ball striking early on, but my short game was really good. I kept getting up and down and chipped one in for par. He nearly pulled out of the tournament with a foot problem earlier in the week “I was wearing a shoe that was too big which caused problems with my left foot,” he said. “I wasn t able to put any weight on it especially on the follow through.” Thankfully the physiotherapist here is really proficient it healed the next day.” The Indonesian star made five birdies and one bogey. Overall it was a really good week,” he said. “I am excited about things I am working on. My short game is great and I just need to fine tune my swing. I expect myself to play well this year.” Defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant from Thailand shot a 71 and finished two under in a tie for 17th. The next event on OneAsia is the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin. The tournament will be played from April 19 to 22 as is joint sanctioned with The European Tour.