Nick Cullen’s brilliant final bunker shot not only secured the Australian Masters title but may have saved his golf career.
The unheralded 30-year-old South Australian said pre-tournament his career was at the crossroads after a disappointing year.
But his one-shot win at Metropolitan GC on Sunday, on the back of the best shot of his life, turned everything around as he denied Adam Scott the chance of a record third straight Masters gold jacket.
Cullen’s closing three-under-par 69 was just enough to win at nine-under 279.
World No.2 Scott rattled home with a 68 and may have been in a playoff with Cullen if his 60-foot birdie putt at the last had not lipped out, leaving him tied second with Newcastle’s James Nitties and Victorian Josh Younger.
Ranked No.539 in the world, Cullen – the twin brother of former Test cricketer Dan – had no status on any tour for next year but along with a $180,000 pay cheque he also earned a five-year exemption on the PGA Australasian tour.
His second shot on the 18th went into a bunker but he then hit it to within a foot of the hole to save par and clinch the victory.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again, that’s for sure,” Cullen said.
“I’ve never hit a better shot.
“To have a win and get status and make a little bit of money is an awesome feeling.”
Cullen contemplated giving the game away in 2011 before a pep talk from brother Dan.
He went on to win the 2012 Indonesian Open and 2013 Queensland Open and he finished fourth at the Masters last year before his career faded again this year.
“I got appendicitis at the Australian Open and then took a few months off and just sort of lost it,” he said.
“I didn’t trust what I was doing and made some bad decisions and I really struggled and I thought about having a break for a while.”
He said the win was a “relief” and reassurance that golf was his future.
He hoped to play in Asia and to use his gold jacket to get some invites into some US PGA or Web深圳桑拿网会所, events as he will be based in the United States with his American girlfriend.
Scott said a 73 in windy conditions on the opening day proved more costly than he initially thought, running out of holes to catch Cullen.
He thought his last birdie putt was going to drop.
“It was looking really good and I felt like I hadn’t got a putt from that range to a hole all week but I got a great read on it,” Scott said.
“If there was one that I needed it was that one but I may have taken a step just a little too early in celebration.”
Scott was disappointed but not entirely surprised not to win a third straight title, which no one had ever done.
“It’s hard to win one tournament let alone three years in a row.
“Defending was a bit of a thrill for me but it is very difficult to just show up and win every year.”