Date: February 16, 2008
Author: Dean Wedlake at Clearwater Golf Club

NZ PGA reduced to 36 holes

Due to an effectively two-day weather suspension, the NZ PGA Championship in Christchurch will now be a 36-hole tournament and that will please no-one more than Canadian David Hearn. The morning&aposs play at the Clearwater Golf Club was initially suspended by an hour due to persistent early rain but calmed enough for the first group, including co-overnight leader Hearn, to tee off at 8:30am. Soon after, Hearn was left wishing he&aposd never been allowed to place his first tee in the ground. He bogeyed the second to drop out of the lead, then found disaster at the short par-four third. His drive was sprayed into the rough and he suffered from a lack of crowd presence as no marshall or any other person on the course could find his ball. He was forced to restart off the tee and was livid to eventually end up with a triple-bogey seven, dropping him into a tie for 24th. Players were then pulled from the course at 10:05am NZ time due to heavy rain, which never relented and Andrew Langsford-Jones, the PGA of Australasia&aposs director of tournaments, announced play was again cancelled for the day after Friday suffered the same fate. Darron Stiles was destined to be another to suffer as he also fell out of an overnight lead when double-bogeying the par-four 13th, meaning Bettencourt amazingly found himself alone in the lead despite not lifting a club in anger on Saturday. However, the collective sigh of relief from Stiles and Hearn was heard for miles around at 12:30pm when they were informed their scores would be wiped clean and they would start Sunday&aposs final round in a share of the lead again. Despite the tournament being reduced in half – meaning there will be no cut made – the overall purse will remain the same and all winnings will contribute to rankings on the Nationwide Tour, although the win will be considered unofficial in the history books. Among those who were forced out on the course on Saturday morning, Australian Won Lee Joon was the hot player and is one of only a handful of golfers upset with Saturday&aposs cancellation after firing two birdies to open his round. To sum up the miserable conditions, only 5 of 51 players that made it out were under par. Kiwi Phil Tautaurangi was one of those but his one-under score is erased and he is now five-over and in 143rd position. Playing partner Michael Campbell was even par through four holes. He will need a brilliant round on Sunday to catch the leaders, as he is at two-under and no doubt rueing three late bogies on Thursday afternoon. Better weather is forecast for Sunday and should play get underway, an all-North American top six will emerge to fight it out. Bettencourt, Hearn and Stiles share the lead, while D.A Points, Rick Price and Dave Schultz are just one stroke behind at five-under. Two Australians, David McKenzie and Ashley Hall, are in a tie for seventh at four-under along with the best of the local hopes, Doug Holloway. The players will begin off both tees starting at 7:30am local time, with the leading trio scheduled to tee off at 2:30pm.