Date: December 04, 2008
Author: Luke Buttigieg at Coolum

Wilkinson ready to challenge

After an impressive debut year in America, New Zealander Tim Wilkinson said after his opening-round 66 at the Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship that he feels he&aposs much better placed to claim his maiden pro victory. The 30-year-old got through the gruelling qualifying school 12 months ago to earn his 2008 card and made an immediate impact when he tied for 25th at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. In March a closing 68 earned him a share of sixth place at the Puerto Rico Open and a couple of weeks later he finished with a 67 at the New Orleans Classic to finish third behind Andres Romero. Wilkinson went one better at the Texas Open in October when he shot rounds of 67, 69, 63 and 64 to tie for second just two strokes adrift of winner Zach Johnson, and admits he wasn&apost far away from winning all three events. “Yeah I had about three or four really good chances to win, in the top five coming into the last round,” Wilkinson said. “Every time I played pretty solidly sometimes you just need a putt to fall in at the right time and things change.” While he may not have tasted victory in the United States, Wilkinson did bank more than $US1.1 million to finish 92nd on the money list and gained plenty of valuable experience in the process. “I had a lot of fun, I had a lot of good experiences,” he added. “My first week of the year this year I was in the final round with KJ Choi at the Sony Open and that was probably a big eye-opener for me just how much goes on at a PGA Tour event.” “Just cameras moving around and things like that, and just a lot of people and getting used to crowd noise. And really just being in that situation and trying to feel comfortable in that situation.” Confident that he &aposdeals with being in contention a little bit better&apos now than he did 12 months ago, placing greater emphasis on &apostrying to relax&apos at every event and take each shot as it comes, the Palmerston North native enjoys being at Coolum. Feeling more comfortable on the resort layout than he does at Huntingdale, where he last week tied for 11th in the Sportsbet Masters, Wilkinson opened with a six-under 66 on the opening morning and expects to perform better this week. “It&aposs a comfortable layout,” he said. “I think this year I played most of my good golf on Bermuda greens, on similar greens to this so I read them pretty well. It&aposs a comfortable course, it&aposs not too long, and it&aposs windy. I grew up playing in the wind so it&aposs pretty good.” “I didn&apost really feel that comfortable last week, I had a couple of weeks off and usually I play better golf the second week after a break so I just feel a bit more comfortable on this layout I think.” Wilkinson was to have played a practice round with Tiger Woods this year, thanks to his association with Woods&apos caddy Steve Williams, but those plans had to be put on hold when the world No.1 became injured. Hoping to spend some time with Woods when he returns to the course next year, Wilkinson was also pleased with his round, which included seven birdies and just the one bogey at the last. “(It was) solid, if I could do that for three more days I&aposd be very happy,” he said. “It was a good solid round it was pretty straightforward, I just hit a lot of good shots and it was just the one tee shot at the last I&aposd like back (but) that&aposs about it.”