Nick Cullen: Putting In The Hard Yards

At the Australian Masters, Nick Cullen proved he can mix it with the best.

An opening 65 at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Thursday had Cullen two ahead of tournament favourite and world number two, Adam Scott.

Nick Cullen Nick Cullen (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Cullen would back that up with rounds of 69-69-72 to finish fourth yet, and more importantly, he walked away from the tournament knowing he can seriously compete in the bigger events.

“It has given me more confidence to trust my game,” said Cullen.

“I feel the last twenty months I’ve been playing better and that I can zone out and get the results. I did that last week and that motivates you to play your best.”

No stranger to playing the tours in Asia and Australia since turning professional four years ago, Cullen has embarked upon a deliberate career transition under the watchful eye of his coach Troy Lane.

Lane, who hails from Blackwood Golf Club in Adelaide, has looked after Cullen’s swing for the last ten years.

“I’m not overly technical with my swing,” says the left-handed Cullen.

“Troy and I have worked making my swing more solid and dealing with how to handle the pressure situations. I now can back my ability and know that I’m playing well enough to compete and to win.”

In the last two seasons Cullen has lifted a trophy on tour each year.

Cullen’s maiden professional win came on the OneAsia Tour at the 2012 Jakarta Indonesia Open with a one stroke victory over New Zealander David Smail.

The 29-year-old pocketed US $172,000 from the $1 million purse that made up OneAsia’s season opener, giving himself a healthy platform to relaunch a career that was interrupted by back problems in 2011.

Given the tournament was co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour, the win also opened doors as Cullen was guaranteed at least two starts there – including the lucrative Japan PGA Championship.

Cullen took full advantage of the opportunity, making the cut in both events including a top-15 finish at the Mizuno Open. It also gave him a taste for the Japan Tour, which has now become Cullen’s main focus.

Immediately following the Australian Open in a fortnight, Cullen heads back to final stage of the Japan Tour school with the mission to gain playing status.

“That’s the goal to get onto the Japan Tour,” says Cullen, who first forged his career playing on the Canadian Tour.

“My game is very different to what it was a few years back when I was in Canada. I was hitting it straight, but had average course management. I’m a much smarter golfer now and you need to be so as to compete on the bigger tours like in Japan.”

Cullen has proved he can compete on home soil and is ready for the challenge of gaining one of the 40 tour cards that will be on offer in Japan.

This year Cullen again took the podium winning the Queensland Open by five strokes over Peter O’Malley and ever since has been riding on a wave of confidence with his game.

“I feel that I’ve played well so far in all the major events in Australia this summer and will just keep working hard,” he says.

“Any time you have a win it is good for the confidence. Hopefully I can build on the Queensland Open win and go further. To break into the Japan Tour would be a huge step in the right direction for me.”