West Australian Whitney Hillier was one of several players in the field who had to make the mad and lengthy dash from Auckland in New Zealand after final round play in the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open that was carried over till Monday ensuring little time for preparation ahead of the event.
Hillier had struggled to a final round of 80 in the wild conditions of last Monday at Windross Farm in one of her few LPGA Tour starts but after a disappointing start to her final round this week, she reeled off a final nine of 32 to finish in a share of 6th position, one of the better performances of her LET career.
In fact, it was Hillier’s third best finish in five years on the Ladies European Tour suggesting that despite the battles of her final round in New Zealand, she had quickly recovered.
While Hillier’s effort was meritorious, perhaps even more so was the equal 6th-place finish of Colombian-based Spanish golfer Belen Mozo.
Spaniard Mozo's Instagram post after a gruelling two weeks on tour (Source: Instagram @belenmozo).
Mozo entered the final round in Auckland last week with a one-shot lead trying not only to win her first LPGA Tour title but to ensure she would regain her playing rights for the 2018 season.
Mozo had begun the week in New Zealand outside the top 130 on the LPGA Tour money list and needing to be inside the top 100 to regain her full status.
She needed a special week in what was the final full field event of the year.
With the situation tense enough for the 29-year-old, it was made even more so when play was called off on three occasions on the Sunday to send the event to a Monday finish.
The last of those stoppages came at the 7th hole when Mozo, her playing partners and others in the vicinity were so nearly hit by flying debris as advertising boards were split apart by an almost mini tornado.
Mozo was upset with officials and let her views be known when suggesting they (the players) were treated like sheep by the LPGA field staff, being told to ‘go here to go there’ when it was clearly a dangerous situation.
When play resumed on Monday morning, Mozo was trailing the brilliant eventual winner Brooke Henderson by four and never got any closer, eventually finishing with a round of 78 and in a share of 5th.
She would improve to 104th on the money list and although unable to improve her standing by the limited opportunities remaining in 2017, she has assisted her cause in terms of at least some starts in 2018.
It was however a week in New Zealand that ‘might have been’ as a win, which would have been her first since joining the LPGA Tour in 2011, would have secured her playing future both immediate and longer term.
Earlier in the week she had also aced a hole that over the weekend would have meant a brand new Infiniti Sports Car so to say the least, the week at the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open was a week that could have been so much better.
Mozo Jumping for joy after her ace on Friday but no car.
To her credit, however, Mozo headed out of Auckland on Monday afternoon bound for France and a start in the Ladies European Tour’s French Open.
That she was able to open with a round of 66 and remain in contention for a high finish all week tells the story of a golfer who, despite the anguish of last weekend, was able to focus on the job at hand rather than think of what might have been a few days earlier.
SIGNATURE HOLES: 3RD AT LINKS SHELL COVE (NSW)
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