SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S Nick Cullen has won the 2014 Australian Masters with a magical bunker shot on the last to deny Adam Scott a chance at hat-trick of Gold Jackets.
Scott was the clubhouse leader on 8-under at the Metropolitan Golf Club – eventually with two others – and Cullen needed to par the last to finish on 9-under and stave off a playoff.
When he put his approach into a greenside bunker things were looking dicey and the 30 year was faced with a must do nerve-wracking up and down.
Doggedly, he put the ball to within two feet to clinch the biggest title of his career.
“That’s probably the best shot of my life,” Cullen said. “I probably didn’t put myself in the best spot but to get out of it like that is a great feeling.
Cullen had started the day two shots off the lead and his closing 3-under 69 saw him beat defending champion Scott (68), New South Welshman James Nitties and Victorian Josh Younger by a stroke.
“You always think about winning and you want to win. You envision it but to be sitting here is just unreal,” said Cullen in his winner’s media conference.
“I wanted to play better, to contend a little bit, be close, but to win the event with guys like Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy playing is unreal.”
Even his final short putt took lots of concentration.
“I hit a great bunker shot and got lucky; I didn’t have a very long putt on the last,” added Cullen. “I am glad it wasn’t any longer, I was nervous enough over that.”
“I was trying to concentrate; I knew Adam was one shot back, so I didn’t really want to go into a playoff with him if it came to that.”
A relieved and emotional winner, Cullen secured his biggest ever win, collecting a pay cheque of AU$180,000 to go with his gold jacket.
“Before this week I didn’t have any status locked up on any Tour, so to have a win and make a little bit of money is fantastic,” said Cullen who now has status on the PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of 2014 and the following five years.
“It’s more of a relief than anything; it’s been a bit of a struggle this year to say the least so to have a win is just an amazing feeling.”
Thanks to the PGA Tour of Australasia being a part of the International Federation of PGA Tours, Cullen also receives an exemption into the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational next August.
As for Scott, he certainly put up a brave performance coming down the stretch but it was always going to be difficult overcoming his first round 1-over 73.
“It’s hard to win a tournament, let alone three years in a row,” said Scott.
“Defending was a big thrill for me, but it is very difficult to show up and win every year, it doesn’t happen very much.”
“Unfortunately I think Thursday was a bit costly for me, I was playing better than that but it is what it is.”
Rounding out the top-5 on the leaderboard on 7-under 281 were Matthew Griffin (VIC), Aron Price (NSW), Adam Bland (SA) and Paul Spargo (SA).
The round of the day belonged to Rhein Gibson who shot a course record equalling round of 7-under 65 to finish tied 9th with Robert Allenby on 6-under 282.
Focus now shifts this week to Sydney where Rory McIlroy will defend his Emirates Australian Open title at The Australian Golf Club from 27-30 November.2014 Australian Masters Leaderboard