NZ Golf in talks to secure top Kiwis for Open

Last updated 05:00 19/09/2012
Danny Lee
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STRAGGLING: New Zealand golf No 1 Danny Lee is 164th on the PGA Tour money list.

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New Zealand Golf remains hopeful that all the top Kiwis could play in November's New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Golf Club.

Boss Dean Murphy yesterday confirmed his organisation was in the middle of discussions with the top Kiwi players including Michael Campbell and Danny Lee for the November 22-25 tournament in Christchurch.

The availability of New Zealand No 1 Lee will depend on how his battle to retain his PGA tour card is placed closer to the time.

Lee, ranked 221 in the world, stated last year that he was keen to come back and play at the event, but had to change his plans as he hunted a permanent gig on the US PGA tour.

The Press understands Lee was upset he was unable to play last year, but the same scenario could unfold this year.

The best chance for Canterbury galleries to see Lee at Clearwater is if the 21-year-old can pick up his PGA card early - he has two ways of doing that.

After missing out on the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, Lee has been playing on the second tier tour.

He's currently 230th on its money list, but needs impressive results - probably including a win - to make it inside the top 25 and earn his card that way.

More likely, but equally tough, would be securing the card through the final four Fall Series events on the PGA Tour.

Lee is 159th on the PGA money list and the top 125 retain their card.

And, while that calculation seems far easier, all the other players just inside or outside of the magic top 125 will all be looking to improve their chances too, meaning Lee would need to feature near the top of the leaderboard in at least one tournament, but more likely two.

If Lee does not retain his card, he will remain in the US and play in the Qualifying School events, which clash with the New Zealand Open.

The chance of a second straight visit home for Campbell appear greater.

The 2005 US Open champion has found form of late, but is unlikely to make the European Tour season-ending event, the World Tour Championship, in Dubai.

That event is for the top 60 money earners in Europe and his €93,813 (NZ$148,415) earnings so far have Campbell in 148th and a long way from Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson in 60th on €355,002.

So Campbell's diary is likely to be empty and a trip back to the Australasian Tour could entice him home and, New Zealand Golf hopes, a number of other top Australasian golfers too.

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The rich Australian Masters is the week before the New Zealand Open, in Melbourne and Murphy was hoping New Zealand Golf could piggyback on that tournament to bring top Australian players here. That is unlikely to mean players inside the top 50 in the world, but Murphy was confident the field could be stronger than last year's.

“Where we sit in the calendar is great for us,” he said. “Straight after the Masters hopefully means we can attract more top Australasian players and we're confident we can keep the players we had last year, too.”

Murphy said the three-man New Zealand Eisenhower Trophy team of Mathew Perry, Ben Campbell and Vaughan McCall were all likely to play and 10 spots would be given to top New Zealand amateurs.

There would also again be a qualifying tournament at Russley shortly before the Open, in which 10 more spots would be contested.

- Canterbury

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