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Defending champ Griffin late arrival for New Zealand Open

Victorian Matt Griffin is the defending champion at this week's New Zealand Open. (Photo: NZ Open )
Defending New Zealand Open champion Matthew Griffin had no sooner gotten off his flight from the WGC-Mexico Championship than he was out at Millbrook Resort today to prepare for tomorrow’s opening round of the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open.

Griffin captured the 2016 title by one shot after a dramatic last hole birdie gave him a two-shot swing over playing partner Hideto Tanihara.

The 33-year-old's victory played the key role in him topping the 2016 Australasian Tour Order of Merit and one of the rewards for that success was earning a start at last week’s WGC event in Mexico where even the last prize was US$50,000.

Griffin struggled for much of the week but a final round of even-par 71 had him heading for his New Zealand Open title defence with some optimism.

“I had a rough week last week in Mexico. When you take on the best and don’t play well, you get punished. I had a decent last round which was good,” said Griffin.

“I get to play the Open Championship in the middle of the year and the HSBC [Champions] later in the year.

“While I didn’t make the most of the first opportunity I had at the WGC in Mexico, I have a couple more there and if I can put my best foot forward and play some good golf, then it will be a good opportunity to further my career.”

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Griffin’s win last year came across the road at The Hills Golf Club but if he is to reproduce that success, he will need to grow accustomed to the Millbrook Resort, which takes up main hosting duties in 2017, with players playing three of the four rounds there and only one round at The Hills.

“It is great to be back and get some good positive vibes from where I played really well last year and there are lots of friends and family here with me this week,” added Griffin.

“I always felt until last year that I had played these courses well but never hit low scores. Last year those low scores came.

“It is a little different being mostly here at Millbrook Resort but I have my first round at The Hills which will bring back some good memories, and hopefully I can channel some of that and get off to a good chance.”

“I love the courses. Both reward good scoring and the greens look firm and fast so you have to be hitting the ball well to give yourself a chance and if you are out of position, it is hard to hit your way back into position.”

Griffin will play in the afternoon field at The Hills on Thursday with the same pro-am partner he had last year – namely his friend Campbell Neale.

THE WEEK IN GOLF: NZ OPEN

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