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New Zealand Open: Japanese pros in awe of Queenstown


Tuesday February 25, 2014

New Zealand Open: Japanese pros in awe of Queenstown 

Japanese professionals Toshinori Muto and Yuki Kono are thrilled to be in Queenstown for the New Zealand Open Championship which tees off on Thursday.

While Muto said he was “very happy” to be back with members of the Japan Golf Tour, after he initiated the partnership at the NZ PGA Championship last year, Kono said his goal for 2014 was simple.

“I want to win, win, win,” he said through a translator.

Both players said they were excited about the pro-am format of the New Zealand Open in 2014.

“It’s a little bit different to last year’s system so I’m looking forward to it,” said Muto. “It’s a positive way of relaxing to get the chance to play together with amateurs.

“I’m looking forward to a good result after I’ve been playing at the Sony Open. In Japan the greens and the forest are separate, but here we are in the forest which makes a lot of difference.”

Muto joked about his media translator being his caddy for the week– a job she said she couldn’t possibly do because the bag was “too heavy”. He said he did not believe the language barrier would be a problem.

Muto said he was “very happy” to be in New Zealand as one of the invited Japanese Golf Tour Professionals as he initiated the involvement with the PGA Tour of Australasia sanctioned tournament last year.

The World No.260, the third highest ranked player in the field, is feeling confident at The Hills after finishing in a share of eighth place at the New Zealand PGA Championship in 2013.

He said he had a “quite windy” practice round at Millbrook on Monday, when gale force winds hit the area, and for that reason found it hard to play.

On his first visit to New Zealand, Kono described the scenery as “so beautiful and fantastic”.

Kono, who is ranked 279 in the world, said he was in the “best condition” as he put in a lot of hard work during the off-season in Japan.

“I’ve been really looking forward to these courses and this tournament, so I’ve been training and have prepared for that,” he said.

Having played his first practice holes at The Hills, his first impression was positive.

“The green hardening is very similar to Hokkaido in Japan but the undulation of the greens is quite difficult,” he said.

He described the partnership between the Japan Tour and the NZ Open as “very, very positive” because of the worldwide globalisation of the game.


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