Australian Open creates history at NSW

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 Australian Open | Preview | 02 Dec 2009

For the first time in its 82 year history, the magnificent NSW Golf Club plays host to an Australian Open and if the early player feedback is any indication then the decision to bring the to La Perouse is destined to be a resounding success.

The only real concern in the past has been the inaccessible nature of the venue for an event of this stature but if everything has been addressed then it won’t be the last time it is played at this layout, destined to showcase Sydney to the world.

NSW Golf Club layout first built in 1926 and opened in 1928 to a routing and bunkering plan of the great Alistair Mackenzie although Eric Apperly would later implement alterations to that routing and restore the layout after World War II.

Set adjacent to the entrance to Sydney’s Botany Bay, the golf course is generally considered amongst the top three in Australia, its actual positioning in that top three a subject of much debate. The other two courses that vie for the top position are Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath and so it is fitting that one of the great courses in Australia and indeed in world golf hosts Australia’s most significant championship.

Despite the fact that an Australian Open is missing from its honours board list, the course has played host to the Australian PGA Championship on several occasions and more recently the ANZ Championship – a modified stableford event co sanctioned with the European Tour was played in the early 2000’s.

As is the case on most occasions with seaside courses, the degree of difficulty on any given day is dependent on the strength and direction of the wind and this week’s event will be no exception. The winds this week are forecast to be light to moderate north easterly breezes around the 30 – 40 kilometres per hour and so will play their part in what should be a great test of golf.

The tournament has lost two of its marquee players with both Greg Norman and Fred Couples withdrawing in the last few weeks although their absence should not alter the winning list of contenders. It is hardly likely that either would have contended late on Sunday for the title although their charismatic crowd pulling power would have been of great benefit to the event.

Geoff Ogilvy stands head and shoulders above this field in terms of class and achievements in 2009 although by his own admission it has been a mixed year. “I think I obviously started (the year well), that’s probably the best period of golf I’ve ever had from this time last year till the end of March at least. It kind of hung around a little bit until the US Open’ish” and then I played rubbish for a while. I then started playing better again in Shanghai.

“I think golf is hardest when you’re trying really hard and when you have been playing really well and then you don’t, your expectations are higher than maybe they were before and you try a little harder to get back and maybe I tried a bit hard and then you end up getting worse. Like golf is like that, you can have good periods and bad periods.”

Ogilvy was full of praise for the NSW Golf Club layout. Good. "It’s obviously a stunning place to be. We’ve played Australian Opens everywhere now, it’s right up there with one of the cooler places we play golf tournaments.

I’ve never played an Australian Open at Royal Melbourne but Royal Melbourne would be my favourite course in Australia. Kingston Heath is always a great tournament to play. This would sit right up there with that, Metropolitan, Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne, it’s right up there in that group, which are the best golf courses. I mean part of the best golf courses in the world too, not just Australia. This is right up there with the best.

Adam Scott has played well of late after what has been a horror year and when he spoke today there was an air of confidence in his voice that has been missing for a while.

“At the USPGA it had reached a point where it was embarrassing,” said Scott referring to his game. “Being picked for the Presidents Cup and the juices were flowing for the first time in eight months. I played well over the weekend in Singapore and it has flowed on from there.”

Scott is still looking for his first win in Australia but there is something about the results he has posted of late and his growing confidence to suggest if this was his first win then it would not be the surprise it might have been three months ago.

Michael Sim is one who could do very well. Off the back of a brilliant season in the US, the West Australian is producing the sort of form many of expected form him earlier in his career but plagued by injury his first few seasons in professional golf were a stop start affair.

Greg Chalmers put together a very good tournament at Kingston Heath three weeks ago and with an Australian Open already under his belt it would not surprise if this grinding type of player stuck it out on what may well be an increasingly demanding golf course by the weekend.

Nick O’Hern has played well in recent starts and like Chalmers is the grinding type of player who will cope with the adversity that will undoubtedly come his and others way over the course of 72 holes over this layout. At his most recent start O’Hern finished 4th at a PGA Tour event in Orlando, a golf course vastly different form that he will play this week but O’Hern did finish third in the ANZ Championship over this layout in 2003.

Nearly every one of Australia’s leading players is teeing it up this week the notable exceptions being Robert Allenby and Peter Lonard. Lonard, a two time winner of this event, is struggling with a back complaint and has been forced to withdraw while Allenby, another two time winner, is in South Africa this week playing for the huge purse on offer at the Nedbank Challenge.

Two of Australia’s promising talents, Marc Leishman and James Nitties get their chance to show why they have made such an impression in their rookie PGA Tour seasons, although Nitties has already done so with his good week at the Australian Masters and his runner up finish at last week’s NSW Open. Leishman is likely to be the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year when that announcement is made in a couple of weeks and he has done enough to prove he has the game to contend.

Given the stunning location, the event promises to be one of the more interesting Australian Opens in recent years.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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