Paddison backs himself to succeed at Open
MATT RICHENS AND FRED WOODCOCK
A new-found confidence and a lack of nerves could make Gareth Paddison the dark horse at this week's New Zealand Open in Arrowtown.
The 33-year-old picked up the sixth win of his professional career this month at the Victorian PGA and he said playing without fear and without the nagging self-doubt was key.
Obviously he wants to continue that at this week's $900,000, pro-am style tournament at The Hills and Millbrook Resort.
"At the Vic PGA, I wasn't nervous at all. I was oozing confidence for the week."
It worked out as he beat New Zealand No 1 Michael Hendry by a shot. He's turned up in Arrowtown with the same mindset and confidence and said now is the time to secure what would be the biggest win of his 13-year professional career.
"I don't see a reason why I can't win," he said. "I know that I haven't won a tournament of this sort of level prize money. But it's long overdue.
"I've won enough and I've felt like I've proven to myself that I can win tournaments, but I haven't won anything over $120,000."
This week's winning purse is greater than that and should Paddison pick up the Brodie Breeze trophy on Sunday night he'd not only break an 11-year drought for New Zealand winners, but also pocket $153,000 for his troubles.
Meanwhile, defending champion Jake Higginbottom is more than happy to have slipped under the radar this week.
With Hendry the $13 favourite having won the past two New Zealand PGA Championships played at The Hills, most of the attention is on the Kiwi.Higginbottom won the Open that last time it was played, 15 months ago at Clearwater in Christchurch, as an amateur.
The Australian immediately turned pro after but hasn't set the world alight playing at home and in Asia.
He said his form had been "scrappy" but he was confident of a good showing in his title defence, maintaining it was the right decision to turn pro after his win at Clearwater.
"I've learned more in a year as a professional than I have in my whole amateur career," he said. "My game keeps getting a little better."
- Fairfax Media
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