Dean Murphy defends open field

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2012
CHP STD
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TALKS: Discussions were held with two-time major winner Daly about a possible appearance at Clearwater.

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They chased John Daly and Robert Allenby but this week's New Zealand Open will still have as strong a field as possible, says New Zealand Golf boss Dean Murphy.

Discussions were held with two-time major winner Daly about a possible appearance at Clearwater, but a schedule clash ruled out the enigmatic 46-year-old the way it did for Allenby. The open is run by NZG and Touhy Associates.

Murphy said there was still a possibility both could play next year as could other top Australians, while a change in PGA Q-school could also make more top Kiwis available next year.

But without Daly and Allenby, and the unavailability of New Zealand's top two players, Danny Lee and Michael Campbell, the tournament is lacking a major drawcard.

Even defending champion Aussie Brad Kennedy was too busy to return and he is ranked 153 in the world.

But Murphy says the field is as strong as it could be.

"We've got a total operating budget of around $2 million," he said.

"It would cost at least that to get one of the top 10 players in the world."

Most top 100 players will ask for a couple of hundred thousand dollars, Murphy said.

"And New Zealand Golf have a policy not to pay appearance fees."

NZG prefers to offer an experience or holiday in New Zealand for its prospective players, though that hasn't worked for next week's tournament.

The main drawcards will be a string of Kiwis, but even the form of New Zealand's top players has counted against tournament organisers.

Lee and Tim Wilkinson have both qualified for next week's PGA Q-School's six-round Final Stage tournament.

Lee carded rounds of 65, 73, 69 and 71 in California yesterday to finish fourth equal while Wilkinson fired 67, 70, 71 and 69 to finish tied for 11th at another event in Florida.

Josh Geary and Steve Alker have bowed out of qualifying. Geary, who finished third last year, will return to New Zealand for the tournament, Murphy confirmed, while Alker will not.

Fairfax Media understands Campbell was not intending to return to New Zealand this summer.

Most of the top Kiwis who will be here this week are in form.

Mark Brown, Michael Hendry, Gareth Paddison and Ryan Fox have all finished in the top 20 of the Australian Masters in Melbourne.

And if those players don't bring people to the tournament, it's hoped the likes of the more-experienced David Smail, Phil Tataurangi and Greg Turner will.

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Meanwhile, today's qualifying tournament at Russley will now give at least 19 players a chance to play in the open.

A field of 99 players will tee off today and the original 10 spots up for grabs had ballooned to 19 last night because of injuries and withdrawals from the open.

- The Press

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