Gareth Paddison and Mark Brown carry encouraging form into this week's New Zealand Open after finishing in a tie for third at the Australian Masters behind first-time winner Adam Scott and former champion Ian Poulter at Kingston Heath today.
The New Zealanders could not be separated on the home stretch of the Melbourne sandbelt layout as they provided an enthralling side show to the main event which culminated in the Australian world No.5 clearing out to beat England's Ryder Cup star by four strokes.
Left hander Paddison birdied three of the last five holes and saved par on the last with a clutch putt from beyond the green to set Brown the challenge of birdieing the last to claim the $A67,500 cheque for outright third.
He made the green in regulation but left a 25-footer short and tapped in so the Kiwi duo settled for a $A57,750 payday at the end of four consistent rounds composed mostly in blustery conditions.
Scott and Poulter, who led the $A1 million tournament by a shot from his playing partner at the start of the final round, were always destined to battle it out for the $A180,000 winner's cheque and the Queenslander eventually prevailed by an emphatic margin.
Scott signed for an almost blemish free 5-under 67 to finish 17 under the card with a four round total of 271; Poulter had to settle for an even par 72.
Brown, who started the final 18 holes in fourth, one place clear of his compatriot, realised third was the best he could hope given Poulter had a seven-stroke cushion at the top of the leaderboard while Scott wasn't in the mood to capitulate.
And the 37-year-old was delighted to finish with a 3-under 69 to end up eight strokes behind Scott at 9-under.
Brown looked to be losing impetus after dropping shots on the nine and 10 but recovered to birdie 14, 15 and 16 - a run reminiscent of yesterday's penultimate round where he made his move with a stunning sequence of five successive birdies.
"The conditions were pretty difficult around the greens so to shoot 8-under over the weekend was fantastic actually," he said.
"It was probably the best I've played in a long time. You had to really think your way around and leave yourself in the right spot. I'm really pleased with how everything held together."
Saturday's birdie blitz on the back nine placed the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic winner in the right frame of mind to press on.
"I rolled in five good putts, it just gives you confidence," said Brown, who is looking forward to playing the NZ Open for the first time in five years when the $400,000 tournament starts at Clearwater in Christchurch on Thursday.
Brown is able to line-up in the Open because he lost his European Tour card last year so no longer faces a scheduling clash with events on that circuit.
Paddison, who won the Victoria PGA championship in Melbourne back in February, timed his run nicely to close out with a 4-under 68, his best round of the tournament, to improve on a tie for fifth when he set off.
Australasian PGA Tour order of merit leader Michael Hendry was outright second at the midway point but dropped out of contention with a 79 on Saturday - a 10-shot blow out on the Kiwi's second round effort.
The 32-year-old Aucklander who saw his comfortable order of merit lead trimmed by closest challenger Brown's exploits atoned with another polished 69 which left in a share of sixth at 4-under.
New Zealand scores:-
Mark Brown 72 71 67 69 279, -9 T3; Gareth Paddison 71 71 69 68 279, -9 T3; Michael Hendry 67 69 79 69 284, -4 T6; Ryan Fox 73 73 71 71 288 Even T14; Mahal Pearce 69 76 73 73 291, +3 T28; Michael Long 73 75 74 71 293, +5 T35; Nick Gillespie 72 75 69 78 294, +6 T42; Kevin Smith 78 69 75 75 295, +7 T45; Doug Holloway 72 74 74 77 297, +9 T55; Brad Shilton 72 74 76 75 297, +9 T55.
- © Fairfax NZ News