Micheluzzi eyeing another Order of Merit title

John Salvado |

David Micheluzzi  is chasing more success on his home tour at the New Zealand Open.
David Micheluzzi is chasing more success on his home tour at the New Zealand Open.

Australasian PGA Tour poster boy David Micheluzzi heads into the New Zealand Open aiming to become the first man since Rodger Davis in the early 1990s to win back-back Order of Merit crowns.

Micheluzzi, 27, now has full-time status on the DP World Tour courtesy of last year’s Order of Merit (OOM) triumph.

But with $NZ2 million ($A1.885 million) in prize money and quadruple points on offer in the penultimate event of the 2023-24 campaign – not to mention the chance to play at the celebrated Millbrook GC – it was a no-brainer for the Victorian to tee it up in NZ this week.

Although the Australasian season winds up at The National in Victoria later in March, it is the NZ Open that shapes as the pivotal event in the OOM race.

Local tyro Kazuma Kobori – who has already won three times this year – is in the box seat.

But if Kobori stumbles, anyone currently inside the top 20 cannot be discounted.

Despite missing 10 of the first 16 events, Micheluzzi is in fifth spot.

“Everything adds up to me being here this week, especially with the perks of winning the Order of Merit,” said Micheluzzi, who skipped last week’s DP World Tour tournament in Kenya to fine-tune his preparation.

“To have two Order of Merits in a row – that hasn’t been done for a long time.

“That would be very satisfying.”

Micheluzzi
David Micheluzzi is finding his feet on the DP World Tour. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Davis won his successive OOM titles in 1990 and 1991.

After a celebrated amateur career, Micheluzzi turned pro in late 2019, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to delay his seemingly inevitable  progression for a couple of years.

Nick Dastey, the Australasian Tour’s tournaments director, cites Micheluzzi as a prime example of the pathway available to local players, with the top three on the OOM earning DP World Tour cards for the following year.

The winner also gets a guaranteed start in the British Open and a likely ticket to the US PGA tournament.

“David is very comfortable in his own skin, very clear in what he’s trying to do out on the golf course,” Dastey told AAP.

“If you can win golf tournaments on our tour, you can effectively win golf tournaments anywhere.

“Winning is hard no matter what the tour is.”

Which is just what Micheluzzi – whose four professional wins have all come on his home tour – plans to do.

“It’s like going from one school to another,” he said of the big step up in class to tackling the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood on the DP World Tour.

“(Initially) you feel a little bit uncomfortable, but after the second week you think ‘this is just golf’, you travel and then you golf again.

“There’s nothing really new to it.

“It’s just a different tour and the guys out there are just so good.

“So I’ve just got to get better and hopefully everything can take care of itself.”

The NZ Open, which begins on Thursday,  is co-sanctioned by the Australasian and Asian Tours.

The field at Millbrook GC also includes 20 players from the Japanese Tour and three from its South Korean equivalent.

Along with Micheluzzi and Kobori, Australians Brett Coletta, Daniel Gale and Ben Eccles are still right at the pointy end of the OOM title race.

New South Welshman Brendan Jones is the defending NZ Open champion.

AAP