Brown brews up a winning formula
New Zealand golfer Mark Brown was quick to swap beer bottles for a notepad as he schooled up on the two courses to be used for the New Zealand Open in Arrowtown.
The Wellington professional had a relaxing time over Christmas, easing back into practice and the new PGA Tour of Australasia season with a couple of top-15 finishes at the Victorian PGA Championship and Queensland PGA Championship.
His eyes, however, have been firmly fixed on this week's New Zealand Open for some time - even as he enjoyed a few beers over Christmas.
He skipped last week's Victorian Open so he'd have more preparation time on the two courses being used, The Hills and nearby Millbrook Resort.
With age, the 39-year-old said, came an awareness of the need to prepare diligently.
Brown wants a national open title more than anything so he was more than happy to skip a tournament.
"I wanted to get down here a bit earlier to cover the two courses. After being out here for a few years, these tournaments become more important to win and the focus goes away from money and more on just winning every week, but this tournament especially," he said.
"It was important to get here early, get as much info as you can and figure out a gameplan to give yourself a chance on Sunday."
The former European Tour winner came tantalisingly close to winning the last NZ Open, in Christchurch 15 months ago, and breaking a now 11-year Kiwi drought when he led by three shots heading into the final round but shot a one-over 73 and settled for fourth.
"I had a pretty good shot at it last time and didn't get it done on Sunday so hopefully this year it will be different.
"It's a huge week."
Brown said both courses were in "great shape" and he was in fact looking at the tournament as comprising three courses.
"I think the condition of the new nine at Millbrook and the other nine will be different, and then you've got The Hills, so covering three different courses and conditions, fairway softness, green speed, green hardness . . . it's a lot of homework."
For the first time, the open has joined with the New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship and the pros will be paired with an amateur. Brown hoped that might help to relax the Kiwi pros.
"It's just one of those things where it's been a long time and we're all probably aware of [the title drought], but it's just going to take one of us to have the week you need, a bit of luck, hole a few putts and be the man who comes out on top.
"There's a fair swag of us playing well at the moment so chances are good."
Looking ahead, Brown will compete on the Australasian and OneAsia tours again this year but also hopes to get a crack on the second-tier Web.com Tour in the US.
He has conditional status on that tour having reached the final stage of US tour school last year.
"I'm hoping to get into Chile next week, then perhaps Brazil and hopefully make a cheque which goes toward a re-rank and play more and more over there.
"It'd be nice to have somewhere to play in winter."