MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Nick Cullen nervelessly struck a sublime bunker shot for a tap-in par putt on the last hole to win the Australian Masters by a stroke in Melbourne and frustrate Adam Scott’s bid for a hat-trick of titles on Sunday.
Clinging to a one-stroke lead on the 18th, Cullen’s approach shot found a steep sand-trap left of the green, but the unheralded South Australian put his recovery within two feet of the hole to seal the biggest win of his career on a sun-drenched afternoon at Metropolitan Golf Club.
“I was trying to concentrate,” an ecstatic Cullen, wearing the winner’s ‘gold’ jacket, told reporters. “I knew Adam was one shot back.
“I didn’t really want to have to go into a playoff with him... I got lucky hitting a great bunker shot on the last and didn’t have a very long putt. I was glad it wasn’t any longer because I was nervous enough over that.”
The bearded 30-year-old’s round of three-under 69 gave him a nine-under total of 279, one ahead of a trio of compatriots in world number two Scott (68), James Nitties (70) and Josh Younger (69).
After struggling with an opening round of 73 in searing northerly winds, Scott was forced to play catch-up all week and though he started Sunday four strokes adrift, the 34-year-old came agonizingly close to dragging Cullen into a playoff.
Bidding for a record third successive win in the A$1 million ($867,000) tournament, Scott birdied the 12th, 14th and 17th holes to push to eight-under but his monster birdie putt on the par-four 18th lipped out to the groans of a packed gallery, giving Cullen, four groups behind, vital breathing space.
“Today was definitely the best I’ve swung my club, putted and chipped and did everything well today,” Scott told reporters.
“It’s just hard. Some of the pins were really tough today. I made a couple of errors like probably most everyone did, and probably from where I was I needed to make none.”
American Boo Weekley shot a second successive 70 to finish five behind on tied 15th while former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy crashed to a three-over 75 to finish seven adrift.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly