2006: Green’s final round worth the wait

Auckland, New Zealand

Sitting and waiting can be a golfer’s worst nightmare. At the Blue Chip New Zealand Open Dec. 3, Nathan Green did plenty of it – thanks to a dream finish.

After a third-round 76, Green had one of the earliest final-round tee times. But the Australian was unfazed as he birdied four of his first five holes, finished with a 6-under 65 and captured his first title of the year by two strokes over six others.

Green, who finished second at the Buick Invitational and had five other PGA Tour top 10s in 2006, was relieved after his victory was clear.

“That was the hardest day of my life,” Green said. “It was tough to sit there watching the guys come in. Your heart is in your mouth over every putt.”

Amid yet another day of harsh conditions, third-round co-leaders Marcus Fraser (73), Kim Felton (75) and Graeme Storm (76) weren’t able to keep pace with Green. Fraser pulled out to the early lead after two quick birdies, but bogeyed the 14th and 15th to drop back.

Storm’s dreadful back nine – he shot 40 – began on No. 10, when he sent his tee shot well wide of the fairway and made double bogey. Felton was composed through 13 holes, but four bogeys on the last five holes ended his chances.

After receiving the winner’s jacket, Green said he still will play most of the time in the United States.

“I have always wanted to play in Europe and that is something I may now do. . . . but the main focus for 2007 will be full time on the U.S. Tour,” he told The Australian of Sydney.

Home again: Michael Campbell had no chance of treating his home Open as just another tournament, not when it was his first competitive round on home soil since winning the 2005 U.S. Open.

“You try a little harder and you get less,” he said. “I’m trying to let go of any emotional attachment to any result.

“Being labeled a major winner puts more pressure on you, and my expectations have probably been too high. I’m trying to be more relaxed.”

It nearly worked. Campbell shot a closing 1-over 72 to tie for second.

Stormy finish: England’s Graeme Storm looked as if he might be set to win his first PGA European Tour event after he got a lucky break in the third round. Storm teed off early and got his round over with before heavy winds blew to send scores awry.

The 1999 British Amateur champion put together a 6-under 65 to be 5 under for the three rounds, and then sat in the comfort of the clubhouse and watched as the wind increased. Nick Dougherty, for example, crashed to 79 with a triple bogey at the second and another seven bogeys after that.

By the end of the day, Storm was tied for the lead with Australians Kim Felton and Marcus Fraser. However, the Englishman could not capitalize on his good luck. He shot a closing 76 to finish in a tie for 18th.

When it rains, it pours: Torrential rain and howling winds plagued the opening round, sending scores soaring. Among those blown away was New Zealand native Craig Perks.

The 2002 Players Championship winner did not arrive in his homeland feeling confident after making only one cut in 18 events on the PGA Tour this year, and his struggles continued.

He fired an opening 84, the second-worst score of the day. Perks improved by 13 shots in Round 2 but still missed the cut.

– Staff and wire reports

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