They were the dropped shots that turned a maiden title push into just another top-10.
Tied for the lead through 69 holes of the Kunming Championship on the PGA Tour-China last month, South Australian Max McCardle made his first bogey of the weekend on the 71st hole before adding another on the 72nd to finish tied eighth.
In the past it would have left a sizeable Sunday sting but ahead of this week’s Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways McCardle says that the way he handled himself under pressure gives him confidence upon his return to Natadola Bay.
McCardle’s position in the Fiji International field was only confirmed last Monday and on the back of a top-25 result at the Beijing Championship on Sunday carries in a rich vein of form at a course where he has finished inside the top 15 twice in the past three years.
Still searching for his first win as a professional, McCardle is adamant that his experience in Kunming shows his game and decision-making are now of the standard required to go from contender to tournament victor.
“I played really well in Kunming. I was tied for the lead with three to play and was probably as comfortable as I’ve been up in contention or in the lead,” McCardle said.
“I really felt like I was going to get across the line. I was in control of my emotions and my thought patterns and my golf ball for the most part.
“I just didn’t execute a couple of shots as I would have liked and I went from tied third to tied for eighth.
“I perhaps could have been a little higher on the Order of Merit had I not pushed a little too hard on 18 once I bogeyed 17 but I was trying to win the golf tournament.”
Although execution may have failed him in the heat of the moment, the 33-year-old felt as though the decisions he made were the right ones.
“I went with how I was feeling at the time and the decisions I made I thought were the right ones under pressure, maybe just didn’t quite execute,” he said.
“I was disappointed after the round but I was pretty happy that I’d got myself off to a good start, was basically bogey-free on the weekend except for the 71st hole and then tried to hole a wedge shot on the last knowing I was two back and made a poor bogey.
“That cost me a lot but I wasn’t disappointed with the way I played or the way I handled myself.
“The result wasn’t quite what I wanted but I was quite happy with the way I went about it.”
Currently in his fourth year on the China Tour and 13th on the Order of Merit prior to the Beijing Championship, the tri-sanctioned Fiji International presents a golden opportunity to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Jason Norris and pave a path to Europe.
A top-10 finish on the China Order of Merit will also secure McCardle a place in the Web.com Tour final stage of qualifying school as he endeavours to take the next step towards the upper echelon of world golf.
“Europe’s definitely on the radar, even Japan,” said McCardle.
“I’ve tried not to give myself too many headaches with regards to scheduling so this year I have committed to playing where I have playing opportunities, which is Australia and China and trying to play my way onto a bigger tour.
“It can be quite expensive going through the Q Schools so I feel like I’ve invested in myself by playing the tours that I’m playing.
“Any of those bigger tours, if there’s an opportunity to try and get on any of those I’d definitely give myself a chance to get there.”
As for his prospects at the spectacularly exposed Natadola layout, McCardle believes that the courses on which he has excelled in China this year provide the ideal preparation for the Fiji International where he boasts a best round of 66 in Round 4 of the 2016 tournament.
“They’re strong tournament courses in China,” McCardle explained. “They don’t struggle for land on which to build the golf courses.
“There are a lot of water hazards and jungle off the tee so you’ve got to hit your golf ball straight off the tee otherwise it’s lost.
“Natadola’s the same. Natadola is obviously quite narrow, there are a lot of hazards and thick scrubland off the fairway so the Chinese courses are quite similar in terms of the layout, maybe just a little less windy.
“It’s a course where you’ve got to hit it straight and it’s windy and I enjoy that.”
Bryden Macpherson was the best performed Australian in the Beijing Championship won by Canadian Peter Campbell, the Victorian making double-bogey at 17 to drop into a tie for 16th, two shots ahead of McCardle and Corey Hale.
David Lutterus struggled to a 4-over 76 in the final round to finish tied 28th with Kiwi Daniel Pearce tied 34th at 4-under.
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