17 Nov 2021 | Professional golf |

Howlong a perfect fit to kick-start summer of golf

by PGA of Australia

Matt Griffin is one of the leading players in the first Blitz Golf event of the summer.

By Tony Webeck

After two years of uncertainty some of Australian golf’s most familiar names and a host of up-and-comers will make their long-awaited return to tournament golf at a course perfectly suited for the occasion.

Howlong Golf Resort just outside Albury on the banks of the Murray River will host its first Blitz Golf event on Friday and has drawn some of this country’s most accomplished players.

Three-time European Tour winner Marcus Fraser, NSW Open champion Bryden Macpherson, 2021 Blitz Golf Series winner Matthew Millar and three-time PGA Tour of Australasia winner Matthew Griffin (pictured) will all tee it up in the unique one-day format that starts with 40 players and culminates with four players facing off on one hole for the title.

It will mark the first time that Griffin puts a new putting style to the test of tournament pressure, 166 days since his last tournament appearance in Japan.

‘How long since you’ve played?’ has been a common question for many Aussie golfers the past 18 months but ahead of the Blitz Golf event, two-day pro-am at Barham and the first of two $50,000 NSW Open qualifiers at Murray Downs, Griffin is happy to have a schedule he can build into over the coming weeks and months.

Following the New Zealand Open in March 2020, Griffin went 329 days between tournaments, his only solace coming from the time he has been able to spend with his young family.

“You can’t get away from the fact that I’ve lost two years of the peak period of my golfing life but I’ve been able to spend two years with my young son Jack,” said Griffin, who has fallen almost 1,200 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings since the NZ Open.

“If I didn’t have Jack it would have been a very long two years.

“Instead of having to travel half the year I’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with him. My wife’s been working so I’ve been able to look after him most of the time at home and that’s been really nice.

“The good part about it is that seeing a bit more behind the scenes (as a member of the Tournament Players Council) there’s a lot of really good stuff going on.

“Hopefully as we come out of this COVID break I can see the next three or four years being really positive for the tour.”

In the initial lockdown Griffin and coach Denis McDade invested time in addressing swing issues that they hadn’t been able to fully get on top of amidst a hectic playing schedule.

The 38-year-old was top-15 in three consecutive events on the domestic tour earlier this year but was frustrated by his putting performance, using this latest hiatus to experiment with two different methods.

“I’ve trialled the arm lock and the cross-handed so I’ll be starting at Howlong putting cross-handed which is the first time I will have done that in my career,” Griffin revealed.

“It’s been a lot of experimenting, just to see what works. The hard thing is that I can use it playing a social round at Victoria but I won’t know if any of these methods that I’ve been working on for the last five months are any good until I put it into competition.

“Both methods feel good in practice, it’s just a matter of when the heat comes on and I need to hole a six or seven-footer for birdie on the first hole at Howlong, that’s when I’ll know if they’re any good.

“It’s eager anticipation that hopefully it does feel good when I step out onto the golf course.”

With the field cut in half after just six holes trialling a new putting style at a Blitz Golf event could result in an early exit.

Having never progressed past the semi-final stage, Griffin concedes the mix of patience and aggression can be a tricky one to get right.

“My Blitz Golf record is really good for the first round,” said Griffin, who will play the adidas Pro-Am Series events at Barham and Cohuna ahead of The Murray Open at Murray Downs.

“The first round is a delicate balance because if you make a mistake you can be out of it straight away. You’ve got to play aggressive but if you make a double on the first it’s almost all over.

“When you do get into that second round you’ve got three holes and if you don’t make a birdie you’re probably going home so then you really have to play pretty aggressive because there’s no difference between missing by one shot or five.

“I’ve topped the first round two or three times but I’ve never got past the semi-finals. I’ve got to get some revenge on that at Howlong on Friday.”

Play at Blitz Golf Howlong begins at 2pm AEDT on Friday. Click here for the field and scoring.

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