Richens: New Zealand Open needs bigger names

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
Padraig Harrington
Reuters
MAJOR WINNER: Ireland's Padraig Harrington would be a huge draw card for the New Zealand Open.

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OPINION: The New Zealand Open needed a revamp and it got one. But is there more the organisers can do?

The pro-am format was a success and the likes of cricketers Stephen Fleming and Ricky Ponting and television personality Phil Keoghan enjoyed some of the larger galleries.

Using Arrowtown's The Hills and Millbrook Resort courses was a clever move and players and spectators enjoyed them.

The prize money was double that of the last tournament, held in 2012, and the time of the year seemed to work, although New Zealand's two PGA Tour players, Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson, couldn't come back for it.

But there are a few things that need improving for next year's event, which will run from March 12-15 and compete against the Cricket World Cup.

First of all it needs to be on television. There's little point in playing a golf tournament on one of the most spectacular courses in the world in one of the most outstanding settings, then not let anyone see it.

The $400,000 organisers are short (it costs $600,000 and organisers used $200,000 to livestream some holes and put a highlights package together) should be priority No 1.

Secondly, the tournament needs a better drawcard than Rocco Mediate.

The 51-year-old was enjoying his honeymoon and the golf was clearly not his priority.

Known as a brilliant putter, he struggled before missing the cut and hadn't even looked at the courses before teeing off.

They need someone who is going to inspire golf fans from around the country to get to Arrowtown to watch them.

New Zealand Open organisers claim anyone in the top 100 commands a seven figure appearance fee. That seems somewhat farfetched, but let's, for argument sake, say the world's top 50 are too rich for the tournament's blood.

They need someone who can compete, someone with a story and someone willing to have a crack at the title.

We've helped them out and compiled a list of who they should target for the 2015 tournament and help lift the New Zealand Open from a very good event to a great one.

And with television rights, hopefully it will snowball and more top golfers will head this way.

WHO MIGHT COME

World No 52 - Martin Kaymer: Might be aiming a bit high, but the former world No 1 has slipped the last couple of years and a trip to New Zealand might appeal to the 29-year-old German with a major win to his name.

World No 76 - Angel Cabrera: Two-time major winner, larger than life and has a heap of game. Like a Rocco Mediate who can seriously play.

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World No 89 - KJ Choi: Has had six top-10s in majors and the eight-time winner on the PGA Tour has been a top-10 player.

World No 119 - Russell Knox. The Scot just finished runnerup at the Honda Classic and could be on the move as a 2014-2015 PGA Tour player to watch. They could sign him up early and hope he booms.

World No 144 - Padraig Harrington: A three-time major winner would surely pull in the crowds. Harrington got as high as No 3 in the world and he'd be a huge drawcard.

World No 271 - Camilo Villegas: Has been as high as seventh in the world rankings twice, is charismatic, has a brilliantly odd way of laying down to read putts and can play. Also the 2006 Sexiest Player on the PGA Tour winner.

World No 339 - YE Yang: Went head to head with Tiger Woods and won the 2009 PGA Championship.

World No 412 - Michael Campbell: He hasn't done much on a golf course for a while, but he's still a Kiwi golfing icon and people would travel to see him.

World No 477 - Fred Couples: Has 26 top 10s in the majors including his 1992 Masters win. Anyone who's won at Augusta would attract the punters and can still keep up with golfers half his 54 years.

World No 903 - Bernhard Langer: If they have to go for 50+ golfers, go for one of the best. Got to No 2 in the world, won the Masters twice and is the best of the 50+ brigade, currently leading the Champions Tour's Schwab Cup. Maybe a Langer v Couples exhibition. We'd watch that.

- Fairfax Media

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