FORMER New Zealand Open winner Peter O’Malley will spearhead the Aussie challenge at the 2012 BMW NZ Open this week.
The 47 year old Australian golfer is confident of his chances at the Clearwater Golf Course.
He is one of 91 Aussies hoping to upset local plans for a Kiwi champion.
“I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t think I could compete,” O’Malley said on the eve of the event this week. “I do feel old up against all these young guys who hit is so far, but I know what the course is going to do, I’m looking forward to this week.”
Having won the New Zealand PGA Championship on the Clearwater course, O’Malley believes it suits his game, particularly if the wind gets up.
“I am looking forward to being back here, it’s been a while since I’ve won the New Zealand Open but I have won the PGA on this course,” he said.
“I do like the wind normally because I can control the ball better. I don’t think I have played here when there’s not been any wind and I play better when there is a bit about.”
With the Trans-Tasman rivalry beginning to heat up O’Malley thinks Australia has the depth of talent required to deprive the Kiwi’s of a win.
“Every week we have a lot of guys, they may not be household names, but there are a lot of good players out there.”
“In any one week anyone can come out and have a good week and win. That is the great thing about our Tour right now; there are so many people out there who can compete.”
One such player is 28-year-old South Australian Nick Cullen, a favourite to take the title.
2012 has been a big year for Cullen, he had his first Professional win at the Indonesia Open, qualified for his first Major – The Open Championship, and also played the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Cullen has fond memories of the BMW NZ Open, his tied 5th finish in 2011 helping set up a great season this year.
“It was massive last year for me, because I came fifth it guaranteed me my card and it got me into the Masters the next week, where I made a bit more money and finished top-25 on the Order of Merit.”
“That has really helped me this year – it got me into second stage US Qualifying School and into the Dunhill Links so I have got great memories from here and really positive thoughts.”
Cullen is well aware the Kiwis have massed some serious talent for the event.
“Obviously [the Kiwis] have some inform players; Gareth Paddison, Mike Hendry and Mark Brown have all been playing really well the last month or two months, I think they will be the ones to beat, but I am feeling good and if I play well I am sure I will be up there.”
“I guess it would be nice to keep it away from Kiwis for another year, make it 10 years.”
The first round of the BMW NZ Open tees off Thursday morning at 7am local time or 5am AEDST.