It would appear on the surface to be a huge and almost unassailable margin but as New South Wales golfer Jordan Zunic discovered today, it can disappear quickly and it was, very nearly, not enough.
Zunic eventually won the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open at the Brisbane Golf Club but not without a real scare as his lead came under threat from initially Steve Jeffress and then Rhein Gibson and at one stage late in the day all three were tied at the top at 10 under.
Zunic’s cause was not helped by balls in the water at the 13th and 16th holes but a superb short iron to the 17th after a magnificent drive into a strong breeze set up a 12 foot birdie putt which he converted to take the outright lead at a crucial time.
Although he had to scramble for par at the last after finding the trees from the tee, his 11 foot par save secured the title.
Zunic had won by one shot over Gibson with Jeffress alone in 3rd place at 9 under and two behind the winner.
Jeffress appeared as if he might be the man to beat when he birdied two of the first six holes, especially when Zunic, who had also started well, then dropped four shots in 5 holes from the 4th.
Jeffress double bogeyed the dangerous 8th but after finding the green with his second at the par 5 9th and two putting for birdie he trailed by just two heading into the back nine.
Jeffress, after dropping a shot at the 14th produced a miracle birdie after driving flag high at the short par 4 15th. His second shot was a tough one with little room to move and after his attempted pitch over the greenside bunker fell into that bunker it appeared his chance was gone.
Jeffress, though, holed what a very awkward bunker shot for birdie and was just one back of Zunic.
Zunic would find the water at the 16th with his 3rd shot after a wild tee shot and second which also failed to find the fairway. His dropped shot there had he, Gibson and Jeffress sharing the lead before Jeffress himself found trouble at the 17th. A wild tee shot there resulted in Jeffress double hitting a little pitch out from under those trees and into a fairway trap.
To his absolute credit, however, he hit the most superb fairway bunker shot to 6 feet and saved his bogey to remain just two back after Zunic recorded his birdie.
Jeffress was unable to birdie the last to force the issue and when Zunic got up and down from just short of the green his 3rd PGA of Australasia title to go with his NZ Open and NT PGA victories was in his safe keeping.
Zunic had special cause for an emotional celebration as he paid tribute to his Grandma who died two weeks ago, indicating that this victory was for her.
“What a tough day, I got off to a good start with those first two holes but then my putter went cold, I was missing some short ones and the wind picked up a lot as well,” said Zunic.
“That was the hardest day we’ve had all week, I wasn’t hitting fairways on certain holes and I had to scramble around this golf course which is very difficult.
“This one was a little different for me, I lost my grandma a couple of weeks ago and I told my fiancé and caddie Olivia this week would be in memory of her, it really means a lot.
“Funnily enough it was like my own Happy Gilmore moment where he was saying grandma over the ball, I literally said to myself going into that par putt that this was for her.”
“I just kept saying to Olivia I’ve just got to hang on, having that five shot buffer coming into today was obviously the difference, it allowed me to have a pretty poor day and it allowed me to stay in the tournament,” added Zunic.
“Not one point out there did I give up, I just kept telling myself to keep grinding, after the 16th when I made that bogey, I just had to hang in there.
Zunic now has a full card on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia until the end of 2019 which takes a little pressure off his trip to Spain to attempt to qualify for the European Tour via the final stage of qualifying school.
“It’s such a bonus for me this week because my New Zealand Open winner’s exemption was going to run out at the end of this year so I had to keep my card this year.
“Missing the NSW Open and Australian Open would’ve been a huge hit for me on the money list so winning this week takes care of Australia next year.
“I can purely focus on Europe next week and hopefully come back with a card. I’ll play the Australian PGA Championship this year though, I’ve got some unfinished business there.”
The leading amateur prize went to Queensland’s Blake Windred who finished tied for 8th.
To cap off a very good week for the event tournament sponsors Isuzu Trucks today extended its long-term sponsorship of the Queensland Open until the end of 2021.
The new three-year agreement will extend Isuzu Australia and Brisbane Isuzu's position as naming rights sponsor of the Queensland Open to nine years.
The PGA Tour of Australia now moves south to Sydney’s west for the AV Jennings Homes NSW Open at Twin Creeks near Penrith.
JORDAN ZUNIC INTERVIEW
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