returns to New Zealand a winner
Phil Tataurangi has come home a winner.
Tataurangi, winner of the U.S. PGA Tour's Invensys Classic in Las
Vegas in October, where he picked up $900,000, begins play Thursday
in the New Zealand Open at Auckland Golf Club.
``I really wanted to come home with a win under my belt,'' he said
Tuesday before a practice round. ``To win on the PGA Tour has been
a goal of mine since I started playing professionally and that's
been a long time coming.''
Tataurangi also had three other top-10 finishes for earnings of
$1.6 million during his best season on the U.S. Tour. His success
in Las Vegas has qualified him for the U.S. Masters, the U.S. PGA
and two World Golf Championship events.
For that reason, he's looking forward to the new season.
``As soon as New Year's Day rolled around, although 2002 was very
good to me, I was happy for it to finish,'' he said.
``There a lot of very exciting things that happened to me last
year but I was happy to put that aside and start afresh.''
Tataurangi said his Las Vegas win gave him confidence that his
career was sound.
``When I started out my career I had hoped last year would have
arrived earlier than it did,'' he said.
``But the experience I've gained over the years has put me in good
stead to carry on and keep on advancing at that level. There hasn't
been a lot of time to daydream.''
Tataurangi has had some lean years since joining the U.S. Tour
in 1997, losing his card after the first year, battling injuries
and trying to overcome complications of a heart condition.
In 2001, he collapsed and had to be put on a stretcher and given
oxygen on the 17th hole of the Air Canada Championship. He suffered
from superventricular tachycardia, a condition that causes rapid
beating of the heart and mimics the symptoms of a heart attack.
He had surgery last July to fix the condition, and his golf game
Now that he has a Tour victory, he doesn't care if 2003 includes
``I don't think you have to win every year to consider it a successful
season,'' he said. ``Golf's one of those games where you get better
by losing, not by winning every single week.''
Tataurangi said he took no pleasure that his first Tour win may
have silenced critics who doubted he could compete in the United
``I've never really taken too much notice of the people who have
doubted me, I don't even know who they are,'' he said. ``I just
got satisfaction out of meeting the goals I set for myself and repaying
the people who have helped me along the way.''
Tataurangi, who opened his 2003 season with a tie for 17th place
at the Mercedes Championships in Hawaii, said he would use the New
Zealand Open to prepare for tournaments in the United States.
But he'd like to do well in Auckland, where the total purse money
this week is about $350,000 less than his first-place check in Las
``It's our national open, irrespective of the purse or what it
can do for your career,'' said Tataurangi. ``If I don't do it this
week I'll try to do it next year or the year after, sometime before
I hang up my spikes.''
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