Defending champion status no concern for Murray


Forty-eight hours ago Zach Murray was still in Mexico having just played in perhaps one of the biggest tournaments of his career.

Fast forward to Wednesday in New Zealand and the Victorian has touched down in Queenstown ready to defend his New Zealand Open title at the picturesque Millbrook Resort and The Hills.

Similarly to last year, Murray will take to the first tee on Thursday with just a few hours spent on the course but the lack of preparation is no curveball for the jovial 22-year-old.

“I landed in this morning and it’s been a pretty big day and a half for me but I’m feeling pretty good. I just had a nice pie from the bakery in Arrowtown so that’s fixed me up pretty good,” Murray laughed.

“I’m super excited. I’m playing here (Millbrook) tomorrow but playing at The Hills on Friday and going down the 18th (it will be) the next time I’ve been down there since last year so that’ll be pretty cool.

“I am going to be a little bit tired so there’s probably going to be a bit of frustration that could potentially happen so it’s just all about trying to do the best I can off the course and recover and just do all the one per centres as well as trying to enjoy the week.”

A strong few rounds at last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship were marred by food poisoning for an eventual T48 finish for Murray.

Despite ‘running out of gas’ by the final round he insists the experience of playing alongside the world’s best will prove invaluable ahead of the NZ Open.

“I played with Tommy Fleetwood on the last day and it was nice to see how they play compared to my game plan. My game plan is probably quite conservative compared to theirs,” he said.

“Obviously last week, I get a lot of confidence from that and then I think I’ve said it all along this is one of my favourite places in the world, Queenstown, and coming here I was really excited.”

Like many in the 152-player field, Murray describes the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour tournament, played in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour, as a must-play on the schedule.

The European Tour player, who earned his card courtesy of his first-place result on the Australasian Tour’s Order of Merit in 2019, will be joined by some familiar faces on the tee at Millbrook Resort including 2019 amateur partner Scott Heitcamp and Australasian PGA Professional Matt Guyatt.

“Obviously the expectation is to come back and play well and my game is in good shape,” added Murray, who will begin his championship defence at 8:36am (NZDT) on Thursday.

“I’ve got a lot of family and friends over this week and it will just be nice to get out there and play. I’m playing with the same amateur partner as I did last year, Scotty, so I’m looking forward to that as well.”

If victorious again in 2020, Murray will receive the winner’s share of the $NZ1,400,000 prize purse, Official World Golf Ranking Points and status on both the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour.

The 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport is played from 27 February to 1 March 2020 at Millbrook Resort and The Hills in Arrowtown, New Zealand.


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