Matt Millar proved precision can still trump power today as he steamrolled to a three-stroke victory in the Murray Open.
Millar, 45, fought gusting southerly winds and a host of powerful youngsters to card a 70 at Murray Downs, one day after torching the previous course record with an imperious 64.
The Canberran’s 10-under total was a masterclass in course management and a case study for proponents of the importance of the short game.
More importantly in the first regional qualifier for next year’s Golf Challenge NSW Open, it enabled him to keep impressive Queenslanders Charlie Dann (-7) and Elvis Smylie (-6) at bay, while Wondonga’s Daniel Gill was low amateur, also at six under.
“I’m really happy with that,” Millar said after pocketing just shy of $9000 for his second win of the week after a triumph at the Cohuna pro-am en route to Swan Hill.
“I’ve been coaching a lot during Covid and so to come out and play well straight out of the blocks is great.”
Remarkably, especially given Friday’s testing wind, Millar made just one bogey in the 36-hole event – an out-of-the-blue three putt from relatively short range on the 11th in round two – to frank his quality performance.
“I made a couple of blunders early in the back nine today, but I was able to knuckle down and get one back on the 13th and from then made a couple of good escapes and got it around.”
Millar made an epic up-and-down from rough behind the 15th green to save par, then another brilliant pitch and putt on the long 16th after finding sand and rough with his first and second shots, respectively.
He then played a great recovery shot from an errant drive up the last to save another par and prove to his younger peers that length isn’t everything.
“It’s always nice to play at a course that’s in such great nick, but it’s also good not to have to hit it three miles to contend,” said Millar, whose precision in the wind went hand in glove with his shot-shaping style, rather than the blazing power of his younger rivals.
Dann battled early, dropping from equal third overnight to off the leaderboard with a outward 39.
But the Sunshine Coaster caught fire on the back nine, playing it in a sparkling 31 including an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.
Smylie had the day’s best round, a wonderful 68 to emerge from the pack for his fourth top-three finish in his past five starts in Australia.
Gill’s impressive second-round 70 enabled him win one of three spots on offer – for those not already qualified – to play the NSW Open at Concord in March.
He will be joined in that field by NSW pair Lohn Lyras and Aaron Townsend, the latter a former champion of his state Open in 2008.