Round 1 reaction: The Players Series Sydney

Rising Sydney star Stephanie Kyriacou claims the lead in her debut in The Players Series, Victorian Matthew Griffin rediscovers his putting touch and Blake Collyer steps out of the organic health food store to post the best round of his young professional career.

Stephanie Kyriacou (8-under, 63)

On the eagle to finish her round

“I hit a really, really good drive straight down the middle and then I had just over 200 to the pin. It was a little bit into the wind off the left and I just felt really good over the ball and hit the best 3-wood of my life to about four foot and then holed it.”

On playing her first professional event in Sydney

“I felt like there was a little bit of pressure at the start, being a local and all. Even in the practice rounds I was hitting it horrible, I was putting horrible but today when I hit off it felt good to be back in tournament mode. Something in my head just switched. It’s nice to have an event at home because this is the first one my family can come and watch me. My Mum and Dad came out today and a few of the members from The Lakes and St Mick’s so it was nice to see a few familiar faces. My sister Eleena better come out. She hasn’t seen me play golf in years.”

On her first experience of The Players Series

“After Europe I took two months off. I hadn’t practiced until the week of the event so I just didn’t feel ready. Thinking about it now, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing if I did play. I really wanted to have a good break because I have these run of events and then I leave in two months and once I’m gone it’s seven months straight. I really planned to have a really long break.”

On the course set-up for The Players Series

“I heard that the girls’ tees were pretty far forward (at Rosebud) and this week they have definitely tried to make them a bit fairer. I think it’s good because when you beat the boys you can kind of give it to them. I think it’s great. On the par 3s it was pretty much the same but on most of the holes that I hit my driver to wherever they hit it, they’re hitting an 8-iron in and I’m hitting 6-iron in. Some of the par 5s we were only 20 metres in front. On the last hole Elvis (Smylie) hit driver, 7-iron to just short of pin high and I hit driver, 3-wood.”

Matthew Griffin (7-under, 64)

On his form leading into the tournament

“I felt like I was hitting the ball really well I was just really struggling with the putter. I had to hit the ball great to have a decent score. I felt like I was playing well but just not putting the score on the board. It was a bit frustrating really but I found something on the last day down at Moonah Links and my putter since then has been a bit better.”

On the change he made to improve his putting

“I was just taking the putter away and moving my hands a little bit. As soon as I do that I have to correct it going back and I really struggle to get my putts on line. I got my coach Denis McDade to come down and caddie for me in the third round at Moonah. He watched me hit a lot of putts and then we figured it out from there. I’ve been searching to find the putter and today I holed the putts and didn’t have to play super-well to shoot 7 (under). I just scored on the holes that I needed to. It gives you that bit more confidence because you know if you’re hitting the ball well you’ll have a good score. It also helps when your game’s a little off and you can still shoot a decent score. I just had to play so well tee to green to have a decent score over those weeks and even starting today, once I rolled in a couple early you relax a bit with the putter and holed a few through the middle stages.”

On the highlights of his first round

“The first five holes, one to five, are really difficult and I was able to birdie the fourth and fifth holes. I holed a nice 15-footer across the slope on five which really got my round going because you’ve got a few birdie chances coming in. It’s probably the difference in shooting 3 or 4-under and getting to 7, playing those holes well.”

On the Bonnie Doon layout

“Tuesday was my first look and the thing I love about the way they (Geoff Ogily, Mike Clayton, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead) design their golf courses is that they make you think about it. Bonnie Doon is a really short golf course, we didn’t have much wind so there’s not a huge defence but if you’re not in the right position off the tee then you can have no chance of making birdie and a tough par. I really like that sort of golf, it makes you think about where you’re going off the tee. The greens were really soft this morning but hopefully as the week goes on the greens will firm up and make being in the right spot on the fairway even more important.”

Matias Sanchez (6-under, 65)

On the bunker shot at 11 that ignited his round

“I was playing fine at the start of the day, I just stuffed up seven and eight. I three-putted seven and hit it on the edge of the green on eight and made a big, crappy par. I made a good up-and-down on nine from the right side but the turning point was on 11. I thought I hit a really good shot and I just air-mailed the green with a 6-iron into the back trap on a downslope. I could probably say that was the best bunker shot I’ve hit in my life because I holed it from a downslope downhill. That got the round going. That got me to 2-under and that put me in a good position for the remaining holes, hit a couple close and made some nice putts. That 11th hole was definitely the turning point.”

On shooting 65 in the first round at The Players Series Victoria

“We didn’t get the chance to play too much last year so just building up the rounds and getting a feel for it all is the key. Shooting that round at Rosebud was great but unfortunately didn’t follow it up for the next couple of days. I feel like my game’s there and if everything lines up it’s a pretty stress-free round. The game’s going in the right direction, I’ve just got to do it for three more days.”

On how his pro career has progressed to date

“It’s an interesting one. Everyone is on their own path so it’s hard to compare yourself to someone else. I do sometimes think I should be ahead of where I am but then again, we didn’t really play at all last year. My coach Tim Wendell and I have talked a lot the last few weeks on the phone. At one event I was a bit shitty because I just didn’t perform to my ability and he said to me, ‘Why are you in such a rush? You’re out there learning.’ We’re each on our own journey so take it as it comes. Even though it’s pretty hard to swallow some bad golf it’s just another learning curve. I’m happy where I’m going and if it takes me x amount of years compared to what everyone else is doing, that’s fine.”

On the afternoon conditions

“There was a bit of a breeze there but it wasn’t so much to make you feel like it was really hard. It was tricky that’s for sure because the wind kept changing and like on 11 I thought I hit a good shot and it flew the back of the green. I did back away on some shots so in that sense it was a bit tricky but I wouldn’t call it very tough.”

Blake Collyer (6-under, 65)

On posting 6-under after a slow start

“I felt like I started pretty good but missed a couple of six-to-eight-foot putts for par, couple of soft bogeys. You started to feel gusts maybe seven or eight holes in but my slow start when it was calm caught me off guard. When it got windy I was able to play with the wind and hit some shots into some flags which was nice. I didn’t really know what score I was throughout the round, it just kept building, making birdies every few holes. Hit some nice shots into the par 5s and the shorter par 4s which gave me some good chances to make birdies.”

On his closing birdie at the par-4 18th

“The wind was into and off the left. I hit a little fade off the tee and had 121 to the flag front-left. It was a bit of a dangerous pin with a drop-off short so I hit a 9-iron pin-high right and had 22 feet. It was a double-breaker, left to right at the start and then right to left at the end and got the speed right and it rolled in.

On returning to competitive play in 2021

“I struggled a bit, just a bit rusty after having all that time off from competing. The last two events I started to get back into some rhythm and worked on my game the past few weeks before coming up here. I turned professional in October 2019 and before that I was working at a health food organics store. When the lockdown happened my boss rang and said that if I wanted to go back and work I could so I spent that whole time working five days a week and saving up money for this.”

On the frustration of not being able to play last year

“I was more frustrated initially because I’d just gone to Asian Tour school and come back and then a week later we got locked down. As it kind of went on I worked out what I could do and how I could use it to my best ability. Use it in a positive way.”

On the Bonnie Doon layout

“If the wind gets up that’s a good defence but I really like the course. I like how the short par 4s you’ve got a decision to make and I think on nearly every hole out here you’ve got a decision to make. Whether you go past the bunker or lay up short on one of the short par 4s… It allows for that, not just stand on the tee and hit driver. It’s in really good condition too.”

On playing with Jordan Zunic who was 5-under through 17

“We were definitely feeding off each other. I didn’t really know what I was throughout the round but we just kept giving ourselves chances. He’d roll one in on one hole and then I’d roll one in on another hole. We kept the momentum up with each other.”

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