McKechnie battles hand injury

LEIGH McKechnie’s desperate bid to keep his Australasian Tour card has been further jeopardised by a mystery hand injury.

The Waratah product was unsure yesterday if he would tee off at the Australian PGA Championships at Coolum today due to pain in the knuckles of his right hand.

The injury to his bottom hand kept McKechnie confined yesterday to the practice greens and prevented him from testing his swing on the Sunshine Coast layout.

McKechnie needs a top-10 finish in the finale of the Australasian Tour to reach the safety net of the top 50. 

At the moment, the 39-year-old is 77th on the order of merit.

Finishing top 10 in a quality field that includes Adam Scott, former Australian PGA Championship winners Robert Allenby and Peter Senior and  South African Rory Sabbatini would be a difficult task for a fully fit McKechnie.

‘‘The physios have had a look at it and don’t really know what’s wrong with it, so I’ll have an MRI scan next week,’’ McKechnie said.

‘‘I only did some putting today, so I’ll just take some pain killers tomorrow and hopefully it’ll be all right.

‘‘It’s OK once I’ve warmed up, it’s just been when I’ve stopped hitting balls and cooled down when it becomes an issue.’’

Last week at the Australian Open in Sydney, McKechnie was 16th after two rounds at one under before rounds of three-over 75 and 78 blew him out to 51st at eight over.

Meanwhile, Jake Higginbottom’s whirlwind switch to professional status will continue today after he was grouped with Australian legend Greg Norman and Stuart Appleby for the first two rounds.

Last week at the Australian Open, the Charlestown 19-year-old played alongside American great Tom Watson, in only his second tournament as a professional. Higginbottom should expect a large gallery following his movements today from 7am. 

Although Norman, 57, only rarely completes at major tournaments these days, he remains one of the biggest names in Australian golf.

The two-time British Open winner won the Australian PGA Championships in 1984 and 1985, eight years before Higginbottom was born.

Muswellbrook’s Kurt Barnes will open the Hunter push for the title with a 6am tee-off from the 10th hole.

Other Hunter golfers in action include James Nitties (6.40am), Aaron Townsend (6.50am), Brendan Smith (11.10am), Nathan Green (11.30am) and Nick Flanagan (11.30am).

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