LEGENDARY Kiwi golfer Sir Bob Charles will turn 73 during the running of the New Zealand Open this Saturday but the World Golf Hall of Famer hasn’t been talking up his chances of making his second cut in a row at the event.
Charles turned the competition on its ear last time, finishing T23, twice shooting better than his age, coming home third best Kiwi and becoming the oldest player in history to make the cut at a major PGA Tour event.
With a sudden cold snap plummeting temperatures and bringing snow and soggy conditions to New Zealand’s south island, Charles didn’t fancy the effect it would have on his circulation or his run off the tee.
This will be Charles’ 47th and he says maybe his final appearance at the open. He first entered as a teenage amateur in 1954.
“It would be nice if I could have maybe one score at least around about my age but I don’t know what the weather is going to be,” Charles said this week.
“My hands are white; I have absolutely no feeling in these conditions so expectations are rather low.”
Charles, who says these days he is something of a fair weather golfer with poor circulation, has won the event four times over the years, was British Open champion in 1963 and in all has won more than 70 titles.
For the previous open, Charles had practised extensively in the build-up, but his preparation has been limited this time.
“I’ve not played competitively this year – I’ve probably played six to 10 rounds, but I enjoy hitting balls and find time every other day to hit between 70 and 100.”
And while Charles admits an advantage over the 156 strong field in terms of course knowledge, his lack of length off the tee with the course so soft will be a huge problem.
“I’ll be out of my depth on the eighth and 18th holes both being about 500 yards par-4 holes. I’d need an awful lot of run to get there in two. My 250 yard tee shots are not going to cut the mustard – everyone I play with hits it 50 yards past me.”
One of those is NZ’s current teenage sensation Danny Lee. If Lee were to win he would become the third 18 year old amateur to do so, behind Charles in 54 and Australian Harry Berwick in 1956.
One suspects Charles wouldn’t mind passing on the baton in his likely final appearance.
“I think he (Lee) is fantastic,” Charles said this week. “As an 18-year-old he’s better than Tiger Woods was at that age.”