Date: March 13, 2016
Author: Martin Blake

Griffin’s late birdie wins NZ Open

Matthew Griffin pulled off one of the best shots of his career to win his biggest tournament at the BMW-ISPS Handa New Zealand Open at The Hills today.

Victoria's Griffin walked to the 18th tee trailing Hideto Tanihara of Japan by a shot.

But after a booming drive his wedge shot from 100 metres stopped just over a metre from the flag, and with Tanihara in the greenside trap, he was right in the event.

The Japanese player could not get up and down, giving Griffin a putt for the win or two putts for a playoff.  The putt hit the left edge and dropped in, giving him a two-shot swing, and the $180,000 first prize.

Griffin, 32, has previously won the Victorian Open and on the Korean Tour, but this was his first national Open win. "It's without doubt my biggest day on a golf course,'' he said.

He closed with a five-under par 67 for a 20-under total, winning by a shot from Tanihara.

Griffin and Tanihara were in a matchplay situation all day, with Tanihara beginning the final round two shots clear.

The Japanese star drove into the heavy rough at the par-four 18th, and made an error by going for the flag, leaving himself a difficult trap shot. By comparison Griffin's drive skirted close to the rough but ended up in a great position, and the Victorian acknowledged some good fortune at that moment. But he had almost made a birdie at the 17th having taken a driver off the deck in an attempt to reach the par-five green in two, and he made the play again at the 18th, hitting a gorgeous wedge shot.

Shunsuke Sonoda of Japan and Michael Hendry of New Zealand tied for third, five shots behind Tanihara.