After 54 holes of smooth sailing, Queenslander Adam Blyth endured a bumpy passage towards his second victory in two months, eventually winning the New South Wales Open by three strokes.
After dropping only two strokes across the first three rounds on his way to building a four-shot lead, Blyth (pictured above) survived a horror front nine in the final round that drew numerous players back into the title race. However, a more resolute performance on the inward half at a blustery Stonecutters Ridge Golf Club secured the biggest win of his career. Blyth relegated Jarryd Felton and amateur Brett Coletta to a share of second place.
In mostly still conditions in Sydney’s west, Blyth tore apart the near-defenceless Stonecutters Ridge course to reach 22-under after three rounds. Two opening birdies on Sunday pushed him to 24-under before things went haywire. He double-bogeyed the 3rd hole then bogeyed four holes in succession from the 5th to plummet to 18-under, surrendering the lead to Coletta after a front-nine 40. Five birdies against no bogeys on the back nine saw Blyth card a closing 71 for a 23-under tally.
“It’s been a magical week. I’ve played probably the best golf of my life – just apart from the front nine today. Take away that, I just played beautiful and putted so well,” said Blyth, who split his caddieing duties between his girlfriend Nicole on Thursday and Friday and his father Stephen on the weekend. “To share it with my girlfriend and my dad, it’s just super special.
“Dad and I, every single afternoon we play nine holes together. He doesn’t play but he caddies for me. So we talk about it, we dream about it and he’s put in so much effort and work and money into me to make this a reality. That walk up that last [hole] was just surreal … something I’ll never forget.
“Something clicked on that back nine. I just started thinking about slowing things down and really just starting to peg it back one shot at a time.” Adam Blyth
“Something clicked on that back nine,” Blyth said of his mindset after the front-nine implosion. “I just started thinking about slowing things down and really just starting to peg it back one shot at a time.”
Coletta, who was bidding to become the first player since Greg Norman in 1986 to capture the Queensland and NSW Open titles in the same year, lost his chance with a careless bogey at the downwind par-4 14th, despite carding two further birdies. Felton, meanwhile, began his charge with an eagle at the par-5 1st hole but he too released the pressure value for the winner with a costly bogey at the par-3 17th.
Conditions turned wild and windy late on Saturday as the course at long last showed its teeth for the closing 27 or so holes. Players battled gusty, swirling winds and even the smoke haze of a nearby fire during the last round. But it was Blyth who was the hottest of the lot. In the end, his early rounds and poise under pressure proved the difference. It is astonishing to think he wound up 23-under despite a four-over front nine on Sunday – a measure of how good his other seven sets of nine holes were.
Blyth, who won the South Pacific Open in New Caledonia in late September, pocketed $72,000 for his NSW Open triumph to move to third place on the order of merit with just the Australian Open and Australian PGA remaining. If he remains in the top-three, the 35-year-old’s 2017 season will look a whole lot different with various exemptions into majors and World Golf Championship events on the horizon.