Nick Cullen hopes for repeat at NZ Open
Nick Cullen has a lot to thank Clearwater and the New Zealand Open for.
The 28-year-old South Australian considers last year's tournament, when he finished fifth equal, his "launching pad".
By finishing in the top five, he was guaranteed his Australasian PGA card and entry into the Australian Masters the week after his New Zealand trip.
He picked up A$15,200 (NZ$19,300) at Clearwater and another A$7900 a week later at the Masters which helped him make the top 25 on the tour's moneylist.
More opportunities followed and as doors opened Cullen jumped through them.
He picked up starts on the OneAsia Tour and won the Indonesian Open.
"So I've got great memories from here and positive thoughts," he said.
Victorian Leigh Deegan had a chance to birdie the 72nd hole in last year's Open that would have cost Cullen his top five spot and all that came with it.
"I thanked him after he missed it, that's for sure."
Cullen is the top ranked Australian in the field this week, but opted not to talk up his chances.
"I'm hitting it really well at the moment. [But the ranking] doesn't mean much.
"Obviously you've got some in-form players; Gareth Paddison, Mike Hendry and Mark Brown have all been playing really well in the last month or two.
"I think they're the players to beat."
Cullen has just returned to Australasia from the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying in the United States and quietly likes his chances at Clearwater.
"My chances are good, my putting is starting to come around . . . If I play well, I'm sure I'll be up there."
Cullen leads a group of 93 internationals - 91 of them Australians - trying to extend New Zealand's nine-year winless drought at the tournament.
With four top-10 finishes on the Australasian circuit this year and past form at Clearwater, he is definitely a player to watch.
- © Fairfax NZ News