JAMES Nitties is aiming to put the “self-inflicted pressure” of his Australian Open weekend behind him and repeat his early assault when the PGA Championship starts at Royal Pines on Thursday.
The Charlestown golfer is one of six Hunter players at the $1.5 million tournament on the Gold Coast, where the winner receives a two-year exemption onto the European Tour.
The 34-year-old shot a seven-under-par 65 in round two at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney two weeks ago to lead the event at nine under. However, Nitties then had 74-75 to finish tied 28th at four under.
Speaking after the Australian PGA Championship pro-am at Royal Pines on Wednesday, Nitties was taking the positives out of his Open experience.
“It was good but I just put way too much pressure on myself to take advantage of it on the weekend,” Nitties said. “It’s not as though I played bad on the weekend. I just got off to slow starts and felt like I had to push it too much, then I felt like I was getting lapped a little bit.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been in that sort of position and considering I haven’t played too many big events this year, I think I just got ahead of myself trying to actually do well and make sure I didn’t mess up.
“It was a bit of self-inflicted pressure, but it was a great experience, especially playing with Scotty [Adam Scott] on the last day.
“I didn’t do too much special in the first two rounds. Obviously my finishing nine was amazing, but I felt like I played better in the first round and didn’t get much out of it. Then it started to click in the second round. It was good. I’ve got good momentum off it.”
Nitties, who played on the US PGA Tour in 2009 and 2010, is finishing his first season without full status on the second-tier Web.com American circuit since breaking through seven years ago.
He plans to head back overseas in March and potentially chase Web.com exemption through the China, Latin America or Canada tours. But like most of the PGA field, Nitties would love to win this week and head to Europe instead.
“It would be quite handy actually, considering I really haven’t got anywhere to play next year,” he said.
“Obviously I just want to play well, but performing well or winning can really open so many doors for you.”
Asked what were his other motivations to do well this week at Royal Pines, he laughed: “Probably money”.
“I’ve already got my card for here next year. I’m 50th on the money list so I’m too far down to get top three. I’d have to win and that’s the motivation anyway.
“So it’s just one of those where I want to take advantage and maybe finish on a good note this year and work into next year. If I play really well, you never know what can happen.”
Nitties tees off at 12.25pm from the 10th hole on Thursday. The rest of the Hunter contingent is: Andrew Dodt (7:20am, 10th), Kurt Barnes (11:05am, 10th), Jamie Hook (12:55pm, 1st), Callan O'Reilly (12:55pm, 10th) and Ed Stedman (1:05pm, 1st).
As for the Royal Pines course, Nitties said: “I don’t think it suits many people. It’s a very straightforward course, it’s not one you have to have many practice rounds on because it’s pretty long and flat.
“It’s more about how you control your irons into the greens and how well you putt.
“It obviously helps if you hit it further, but it’s very hard to get it close from the fairway with your mid-irons because the greens play so firm.
“The grains are going everywhere on the greens so it’s easy to lose confidence a little bit.
“I think even-par won last year, so it’s a tough golf course.”