The Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship presented by Wippells Volkswagen has a strong field in attendance with six of the top-24 from last week’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth teeing it up at City Golf Club in Toowoomba from 15-18 February.
Runner-up James Nitties, Brad Kennedy, Callan O’Reilly, Matt Millar, Dimi Papadatos and Nick Cullen all qualified for the six hole match play rounds of the innovative format in Perth but will return to regular 72 hole stroke play when round one begins tomorrow.
“I was hoping we could stick with that format actually. The old match play format I haven't been able to play since I was a kid in an interstate series, junior pennants or senior pennants,” said Nitties who eventually went down in the final to Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
“It's truly a fun format where you just make the match play and anyone can win. So coming back to the traditional format this week, it's normal and it's not like I'm out of my element or anyone else is.”
Nitties played his first three matches against Australians taking out Cullen in the first round, Papadatos in the second and fellow Novocastrian O’Reilly in the quarter finals.
“We were talking about it the night before and joking and then to play Cal in the quarters was pretty fun,” said Nitties.
“I wasn’t happy about beating him, but we were always with the attitude of one us is going to go through so it's good.”
The two Newcastle natives went head-to-head and such is the nature of the format that the result could’ve fallen either way as both made clutch putts throughout the tournament.
O’Reilly in particular had his putter running hot, nailing a 25 foot putt to make par in the playoff on Saturday afternoon to seal his spot in Sunday’s match play.
“He (O’Reilly) said he made everything in all his other matches and I mean we both putted well in our match but it was one particular putt on 17 when I rolled about a 35 footer in and then he was laying there at about eight feet,” Nitties added.
“So I figured if I missed that he was going to make it and I'd be one down with one to play so it was kind of a nice feeling to put a big one in on him and have a bit of a laugh about it later on.”
O’Reilly, while obviously disappointed, was happy to see his mate on Tour progress to the final match on the big stage at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
“I played really well last week. A lot of things went right for me, especially on the greens, I putted really well and it was a shame to lose to Nitties but he gave me a bit a taste of my own medicine and I was dishing out to some of the other guys with the putter,” said O’Reilly.
“I'm really happy for his result, I wish he could have gone one further but it was a great week and a great format.”
O’Reilly has been working on his putter since the New Year and it paid dividends for him in Perth, sinking some long range putts under pressure throughout the tournament.
“I went up to Asian Tour Q-School early in the New Year and my putting was pretty average, sometimes the grainy greens just sort of get to me but I did a bit of hard work back home and I was working on the right thing and it all clicked last week,” added O’Reilly.
“To be honest I putted really badly on Thursday and I was a bit a bit worried and I just sort of changed up the routine going into the other days and it worked so I was really happy.”
It’s something he hopes he can continue on the City Golf Club layout this week as he chases his first victory on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia; he finished T14 here in 2017.
“I had a little look yesterday and it's looking great. The greens are rolling really nicely so it's just going to be about keeping the ball in position off the tee.
“The fairways are so tight out here and the rough can get pretty thick in spots so you've got to try and stay on the short stuff to give yourself a good look at the green.”
Canberra’s Matt Millar, who reached the second round of the match play at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, after making it to the quarter finals in 2017 echoed O’Reilly’s statements on the City Golf Club course.
Millar knows the course well having finished runner-up twice at the Coca-Cola QLD PGA Championship, once in last year’s playoff loss to New Zealander Daniel Pearce and again to another Kiwi in 2015 when Ryan Fox won.
“I do like playing here at Toowoomba, the tree lined course is definitely not long by any stretch but it’s a little bit tricky with it being tight in spots going up and down and across hill at times,” said Millar.
“But if you hit the ball straight you're going to give yourself a lot of chances simply because of the clubs you can hit in to the greens. Then of course you've got to be making the putts.
“I've had a couple of good results here so hopefully I can try and go one better.”
The Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship presented by Wippells Volkswagen will be played at City Golf Club from 15-18 February.
Rounds three and four will be live streamed on PGA TV with round three beginning at 12:00pm and round four beginning at 10:00am local time.
Round one begins at 6:45am Thursday, full tee times are available on pga.org.au
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