Zunic positive despite playoff defeat at Australian PGA Championships

Port Kembla’s Jordan Zunic has credited Nick O’Hern for helping to develop the mental aspects of his game after his nailbiting second place finish at the Australian PGA Championship.

So close: Jordan Zunic. Picture: AAP Image/Tim Marsden.

So close: Jordan Zunic. Picture: AAP Image/Tim Marsden.

Zunic and Queensland’s Cameron Smith were tied for the lead at 18 under after the regulation 72 holes, with Smith ultimately claiming the tournament on the second playoff hole.

“It was an unbelievable week,” Zunic said. “I played pretty solid every day, obviously on Saturday there was some pretty special stuff. I gave it my all on Sunday, unfortunately I fell just short in the playoff, but I have to take my hat off to Cameron Smith. 

“He plays on the US tour for a reason, he’s definitely a world class player. To know I pushed him down the stretch was a real confidence booster. I know next time in that situation I’ll be able to go one better.”

The result, which included a course-record equalling 64 on Saturday, marked a stunning turnaround for the 26-year-old, who failed to make the cut at both the NSW Open and Australian Open on the previous two weekends. The difference, Zunic says, was 2006 Australian PGA champion Nick O’Hern.

“I read his book Tour Mentality: Inside the Mind of a Tour Pro, then my girlfriend sent him an email, she was the one who read the book and introduced it to me. He got back to me and we met up with him at the Australian Open, then he came out on course with me for a practice round last Tuesday.

He had so much knowledge, he helped me think a lot better on course and to not put too much pressure on myself.

“The time together gave me a lot of his wisdom, but I didn’t expect it to click straight away.”  

Zunic held a three-shot lead over Smith heading into the final round, however a Zunic bogey on the 10th saw the pair tied with eight holes to go. A Smith birdie on the 17th gave him a one-shot lead heading into the final hole. Zunic, however, held his nerve on one of the toughest holes on the course to force a playoff. 

The pair couldn’t be separated on the first playoff hole, before a Zunic putt on the second playoff hole lipped out. The miss handed Smith the victory and cost Zunic a European tour card.

“I struck that putt perfectly and I thought it was going in. Unfortunately it stopped turning in as it rolled around the edge of the hole. It was a little bit disappointing, but I can’t do much more than hit a good putt, the rest is up to whatever the golf ball wants to do.”

Following the weekend’s success, Zunic is confident O’Hern’s strategies will enable him to progress his career to the next level.  

“We’re only scratching the surface. I’ve just been practicing for one week, if I can continue to practice I’m sure I’ll get better. I’m very lucky, I needed a mentor in that area of my game, so to have someone like him who was a world class player is awesome.” 

Despite missing out on the European tour card, Zunic is confident the good result will earn him a number of invitations to European tour events in 2018. 

“Next year I’m planning to probably get a few European tour invitations after this second place finish. I’m also going to go to the Asian tour school in the new year. They have a lot of co-sanctioned events with the European tour so it’s another good pathway to get over on to the European tour.”