Queenstown - Australian rookie Zach Murray signaled his arrival on the biggest stage when he became the third fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour after closing with a four-under-par 68 to become the newest champion of the New Zealand Open on Sunday.
It was a wire-to-wire victory for the 21-year-old and his breakthrough was made even sweeter as it was his first professional win, achieved in what was only his third start on the Asian Tour at the NZ$1,250,000 (Approx. US$850,000) event.
Murray saw his five-shot lead after the second round reduced to just one after the third round. But the Australian responded on the day that mattered most with a sublime performance that saw him lift the New Zealand Open trophy by two shots over closest challengers Josh Geary of New Zealand and compatriot Ashley Hall at The Hills.
Murray birdied the second before reeling off seven successive pars to turn in 35. He added another birdie on the 10 but would give it back on the next following a bogey. The young talent however soared with an eagle-birdie-birdie run from 13 to pull clear of Geary and Hall.
Murray, who held a three-shot lead coming down the 72nd hole, had to hit his third shot from behind the television tower but a two-putt bogey for a 21-under-par 266 total was good enough to ensure his triumph at the storied event, that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond enjoyed another solid result on the Asian Tour by signing off with a bogey-free 66 to finish three shots back in fourth place. The Thai has never finished outside the top-10 since he lifted his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening event in Singapore in January.
A total of 152 professionals and 152 amateurs took part in the event where the first two rounds were alternated between the par-71 course at Millbrook Resort and the par-72 course at The Hills. The 62 players, who made the halfway cut on Friday, competed in the final two rounds at The Hills.