It started with a blip, but Matthew Millar ensured normal service with a scintillating second round to win the Queanbeyan Open.
Millar, already this summer the champion of the Murray Open, carded a blemish-free five-under-par 65 to add a “hometown” three-stroke victory to his rapidly expanding resume.
The 45-year-old Canberran, sleeping in his own bed and playing a course with which he’s extremely familiar, had double-bogeyed the opening hole on day one.
But he played the ensuing 35 holes in 10 under par and without a bogey to again show his younger rivals a clean pair of FootJoys.
“I just found a good groove there and made a couple of putts when I needed to,” Millar said modestly after finishing three clear of Brady Watt, James Grierson and defending champ Deyen Lawson at five under.
“It’s good to have a fair clue of where they’re heading off the tee and then playing a few good wedges when it matters and just doing my thing, really.”
Playing in uncustomary fourballs as a precaution against forecast bad weather, the main challengers were all visible to Millar in the final group.
Joint overnight leader Grierson was visibly nervous early and really only found his stride on the back nine, while Andrew Evans (-2 total) managed just one moment of magic with a chip-in birdie on the seventh in an otherwise uneventful round.
Jordan Zunic, who started at -4 alongside Grierson, looked the most likely to win early with some quality ball striking, but could not manage another birdie after the seventh.
Zunic played arguably the shot of the tournament with a flop shot from deep trouble on the par-3 12th hole to salvage par and looked set to go with Millar.
But minutes after that he made a flat bogey on the short 15th and his chances had effectively evaporated.
Ahead on the course, Lawson made a back-nine charge to briefly pull within two of Millar, but he, too, came a cropper on the 15th and despite five birdies in seven holes, he fell away again pushing for a miracle on the last.
Watt also played a fine back nine, but left his charge too late.
Watt, Grierson and Peter Wilson – who had an ace on the 17th hole – all qualified for the Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord in March as the highest-placed players not already exempt.
But it was Millar who was again the star of the $50,000 regional qualifying series event in his back yard.
He didn’t look like making a bogey all day and uncustomarily left several putts short, preventing what might otherwise have been an even more dominant win.
He chipped in from the side of the sixth green for a birdie to get his round humming, then nearly holed out his tee shot on the short eighth minutes later to set up another birdie.
A bomb for birdie from the front of the 11th was followed by a great approach to the 13th to establish his winning break and from there, it was a master class in tee-to-green stability.
“It is great of Golf NSW to put on events in regional areas and I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to play well at home,” Millar said.
“We don’t often get to play tournaments in Canberra and Queanbeyan, so it’s a bit of a thrill have won, for sure.”