By MELTON PAIS
SP PNG Open reigning champion Cory Crawford is looking forward to defending the title when competition starts today at the Royal Port Moresby Golf Club course.
Queenslander Crawford will be among 88 professionals from around the Oceania region and Southeast Asia vying for a share of A$145,000 (K357,582) in prizemoney, courtesy of major sponsor SP Brewery.
“Being a professional, I have learnt to be patient after last year’s win as golf is one of those sports in which we need to remain patient,” Crawford told The National yesterday.
“Now, I will be doing my best to defend my title against some of the best golfers listed for this year in the likes of Morobe Open champion Daniel Gale, Brett Rankin, who was last year’s runner-up as well as Christopher Wood and Steven Jefferess, so I’m hoping to do well from the first hole.”
Crawford, 25, a full-time professional on the Australasian Tour, has competed at the PNG Open over the last two years and managed to claim his first pro title last year in memorable circumstances.
Crawford finished 10 under par with Rankin also finishing on the same score forcing a playoff.
The pair could not be separated through five playoff holes on the par-3 18th, both making par on all attempts.
On the sixth trip, the pair hit their tee shots about 12.2m from the flag but Rankin would eventually bogey the hole giving Crawford an easy par for victory in front of several hundred spectators.
Among the 87 professionals, few amateurs have also been confirmed for the tournament.
Jon Kennedy will represent England and South Africa will have Paul Boshoff while other golfers are expected from South Korea, Fiji, Australia, and PNG.
Crawford said defending PNG Open would be his biggest achievement in his career but it would require a lot of effort and some luck over the next four days to become the first player to win back-to-back titles.
He admitted that the 18th hole despite being a par-3 was probably the toughest being the final hole and the one that invariably decided the winner.
“After playing here a couple years in a row now I’m comfortable with course and confident,” he said.
“The biggest thing for me will be just trying to back up that performance last year especially to stick to my game plan.”
Crawford commended rival Gale, who bagged his first title on PNG soil — the Trukai Morobe Open — last week, as a talented player who could finish high on the leaderboard if he maintained his form and momentum.
Aside from a cash prize, the SP PNG Open winner will get world golf ranking points and gain full exemption on to the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus next season.
By MELTON PAIS