The Masters - Let the Games Begin
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 Australian Masters | Preview | 11 Nov 2009
Australian tournament golf is about to experience Tiger Mania. Tuesday’s practice round and today’s pro-am at the JB Were Masters have been played in perfect conditions and the crowds came to take advantage of those conditions and to get their first glimpse of Woods. They were however the calm before the storm.
The dynamics of the week will change tomorrow when the tournament takes on its game face and more players than just Tiger Woods become a consideration.
Clearly Woods is the favourite but there are a number of players who have the game and the experience of playing in a tournament where the Tiger factor is an issue who could conceivably take it to Woods and beat him this week. While there are several fine young players in the field it would seem that that capacity to handle the razzmatazz that is the Tiger show will be a key ingredient in success. That is assuming of course that Tiger lives up to his billing and plays amongst the contenders during the weekend.
The standout in that regard is the world number Geoff Ogilvy who arrives in Melbourne off the back of a very impressive finish to the WGC HSBC event in Shanghai. Not only is he encouraged by what was a very good weekend in China but the Kingston Heath layout is one that Ogilvy feels is one of the best in the world.
“It will be definitely close to the best course I have played this year in a golf tournament: probably the best,” said Ogilvy today before heading out for his pro am round.
While wary of the favourite, Woods, Ogilvy is also aware of the chances of the Australians.
“There are quite a few local guys who have played this style of golf more often and know this golf course better,” he said. Sometimes for a local guy for an Australian especially, like there is for an American at the US Open or a Brit at the British Open or Wimbledon for that matter the local guys have that emotional drive to win. So he (Woods) is up against it this week but he is definitely the clear favourite."
Aaron Baddeley won an event the last time one was played at this venue back in 2000 when he won the second of his two Australian Open Championships and he is looking for those memories t assist his chances. “I had a look at the tapes the other day just to familiarise myself with the flag positions used back then and to assess the changes. They have lengthened a couple of holes but other than that there has not been much change.”
Like Ogilvy, Baddeley is happy with his game. He changed back to his original coach Dale Lynch in March after coming to the realisation that the Stack and Tilt method he had adopted a few years earlier was not working for him. “I made a lot of improvement originally with that method but felt that the further I took it the worse things got for me.”
Adam Scott is another who is turning around what has been for him an Annus horribilis by his standards. “I have worked hard of late and the finish in Singapore was good and the game has continued to improve since.”
“My selection in the Presidents Cup Team was important as it gave me some belief in myself and made me keep my head down and work hard. Greg (Norman) and I talked and one of the key messages he gave me was to never look back, always look ahead and to believe in myself a little more.”
“The period I have been through this year has given me a greater awareness of just how this game works. I believe I will be a better player for it. It is always a work in progress.”
“When you are playing good you never think you can play bad and when you are playing bad you never think you will play well again.”
Rod Pampling is the defending champion, although on another golf course, but he feels his game is in good enough shape to do well. “I’m hitting a lot of good golf shots. Everything is solid. It has been a little stretched and the little things have not gone right but the game is definitely there. If I have a little bit of luck this week and the good feelings of coming back to defend the title, I think we are going to be right there.”
The chances go well beyond those mentioned above. Two of Australia’s most impressive young talents, Michael Sim and Marc Leishman are in the field, Leishman coming off a great rookie season on the PGA Tour and Sim a record breaking season on the Nationwide Tour.
The European Tour has hardly gotten a mention to date this week but the event is jointly sanctioned with that Tour. Several Australians are European Tour players and will improve their 2009 money list standing should they do well this week. The quality of Europeans is marginal however especially given that Europe are also involved in an event with Asia this week in Hong Kong and most of their leading players are there playing in an event worth considerably more money.
The event is already delivering more than it promised and should continue to do so during a week where warm breezy conditions will prevail.
Woods has an early tee off on day one when he will play with defending champion Rod Pampling and Craig Parry.