Brown puts Clearwater nightmare behind him

GREAT FORM: Mark Brown was on the verge of being the first local winner of the NZ Open since 2003.
GREAT FORM: Mark Brown was on the verge of being the first local winner of the NZ Open since 2003.

Mark Brown took several days to get over the disappointment of not closing out a New Zealand Open victory at Clearwater, but he enters the Australian Open today armed with a positive frame of mind, and a couple of different clubs in his bag.

Brown, along with New Zealand No 3 David Smail and No 4 Michael Hendry, the latter fresh from a successful Japan Tour qualifying school campaign, will lead a 13-pronged Kiwi attack on the $A1.25 million event, the most prestigious on the PGA Tour of Australasia calendar

Brown touched down in Sydney on Monday, having spent the weekend playing for the successful Asia-Pacific side against China in a OneAsia Tour teams' event in China, and getting over what had transpired a week earlier at Clearwater, where he blew a three-shot lead in the final round of the New Zealand Open - courtesy of a cold putter and a fluctuating short game.

"It took a few days to get over the disappointment of Clearwater, I was a bit flat, especially because I felt I probably played well enough to win," Brown said yesterday.

"But I managed to do some good work up there [in China] and after a couple of days here in Sydney, hopefully I can put in a good performance. It's just head down and working hard again and trying to get parts of my game better."

Brown's ball striking was exceptional at Clearwater, but his putting frustrations told a familiar tale, and he was hoping to find some hot streaks on the greens at The Lakes Club.

He will also carry an extra wedge this week.

"It's just a few tweaks," he said. "I've put two or three different clubs in the bag this week just to try and get the short game a bit better. It might take a week to get used to it, but long term it should be a good move. In this game you're always looking to get better.

"I can putt well, it's probably a little inconsistent right now, but because my long game has been so good, I've hit so many greens and given myself so many chances. I just need to get a bit more hot with the putter more regularly."

With $141,287 from five tour events this year, Brown is third on the order of merit behind Hendry ($206,833) and Australia's world No 7 Adam Scott ($180,000), but with winner's cheques of more than $200,000 this week and next at the season-ending Australian PGA Championship, the race essentially starts now.

Winning the order of merit results in starts at the British Open and some World Golf Championship events next year.

Hendry is looking to build on his lead and he'll be fizzing after a great finish to the six-round Japan Tour Q-school, where he closed with a two-under par 70 on Tuesday to climb to 26th spot and gain virtually full status for 2013.

Scott, as well as England's world No 5 Justin Rose, eight-time major winner Tom Watson, of the United States, and 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy are among the headline names in Sydney.

Fairfax Media