STARTING the day with an eight shot lead Daniel Pearce fulfilled expectations in winning the Queensland PGA at Toowoomba. His path to victory, however, was far from conventional.
The long hitting Kiwi lapped the field with a third round 62 but what was expected to be a Sunday coronation turned into an enthralling battle with Australia’s Matt Millar, the pair eventually heading to sudden death to find a winner.
It looked to be plain sailing for Pearce as he birdied the first hole to stretch his advantage to nine but things turned quickly on the journey to the turn.
Millar reeled off five birdies while Pearce lost his game and dropped four consecutive shots, sending the pair to the 10th tee all square.
While it was the Australian who looked to have the momentum it was Pearce who made an statement early on the inward nine.
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An extraordinary shot to within eagle range at the par-5 sent him two ahead again and it was up to Millar to chase as Pearce steadily reeled off pars.
But chase Millar did and with three birdies on the way to the clubhouse he managed to send the pair to extra holes for the title.
Three times they played the 18th, Millar blinking first after having makeable putts to win both in regulation and at each of the first playoff holes.
A poor drive into a fairway bunker the third time around led to a do or die decision to hit hybrid from the sand to try to find the green.
The effort came up short and while he hit a remarkable pitch from a horrible lie the mistake led to a fatal bogey, Pearce two putting from the front of the green to claim his first PGA Tour of Australasia title.
“It was a hard slog today so very pleasing to get the victory in the end,” a clearly relieved Pearce told PGA TV after the playoff.
“I just planned to try to play exactly the same as I did the last few days and I didn’t quite manage to do exactly how I did it but managed to get the job done in the end so I’m very happy to have had a win.”
Despite losing his eight shot advantage in the space of nine holes Pearce said his mindset was still good heading to the final nine.
“To be honest I was quite excited heading into the back nine,” he said.
“I know I probably should have been a little disappointed with how I played on the front nine but I just looked at it as a challenge.
“I thought ‘I’ve been paying great and I can still play well on the back nine’.”
It was a remarkable victory for Pearce who had originally planned to skip the event after his wife gave birth to their first child a little more than a month ago.
“We just had a baby four and a half weeks ago,” he said. “I wasn’t even planning to come and play this event.
“I was going to stay at home with them so… extra special. It’s a shame they can’t be here to be with me.”
For Millar it was a bitter disappointment as he claimed his second runner-up finish in the event.
In 2015 he held the lead standing on the 16th tee of the final round when another New Zealander, Ryan Fox, made two eagles in the last three holes to steal the title from him.
Rookie Adam Burdett finished outright third three behind the leaders while Mark Brown was outright fourth at 15-under.