Allenby wins Open after drama filled week

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 Australian Open | Wrap | 27 Nov 2005
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Day Four Photo Gallery – Australian Open 2005

As Robert Allenby appeared on the practice putting green fifteen minutes prior to his 12:55 tee time in today’s final round of the Australian Open, it became clear that he would at least take his place in the field. Whether that was always the case or whether there had been a genuine reason to believe that he would not – well only Allenby will know but as he set out with his five shot lead it appeared his tournament to win or lose.

Allenby had received further treatment on his damaged right hand this morning and had iced it over lengthy periods since he had completed his third round yesterday and now it was about to be put to the ultimate test.

Once underway Allenby made a solid two putt par at the first but at the second he came up short with his approach to the second and took bogey. Paul Sheehan, who was playing alongside Allenby, bogeyed the first but when he birdied the second he had reduced Allenby’s five shot lead to four.

Rod Pampling moved into second place when he birdied the second but he would then double bogey the third to fall back to two under and sixth place.

Three groups ahead, the man who started to emerge as the biggest threat to Allenby, at least at that stage, was Stuart Appleby. Appleby had started in 7th place and eight shots back of Allenby but after birdies at the third, fourth and fifth holes – the last of which was when he chipped in from the right hand side of the par three – he was at four under and in a share of second with Sheehan. Two holes later Appleby was back at two under after an almost compulsory bogey at the sixth, a ten foot bogey save at the 7th and then another dropped shot at the 8th after hitting his approach through the green.

If Appleby was in trouble so was the leader Allenby. After three-putting the downwind par five fourth for bogey Allenby then missed the green at the fifth and missed an eight foot putt for par and he was back to six under but still three ahead of Senden, O’Hern and Sheehan. At the sixth he missed the green right and was then forced to chip backwards and made a very good up and down for bogey. The exposed par three seventh was next and Allenby was able to reverse the downward spiral there when he holed a birdie putt from eight metres.

He missed a good chance at the eighth and then at the ninth, after driving it in the fairway, he found the front greenside bunker with his approach. His bunker shot there to less than a metre was perhaps his best of the day and came at an important moment.

At the completion of their outward journey, Allenby led by three over Senden and Martin Doyle with another shot back to Pampling, O’Hern and Sheehan.

Doyle was the surprise package on day four or was he? He had finished fourth here in 2003 but has not yet found a tour on which he can play regularly outside of the Australasian Tour. He has played Von Nida Tour events in 2005 and attempted qualifying for next year’s USPGA Tour but like so many talented Australians without a tour on which to develop their skills, the grind of professional golf is considerable. Here he was, however, again in the mix on one of the tougher golf courses in the land and against the best field Australian golf could offer.

Allenby saved par at the tenth after missing the green left but three holes ahead and at the same time, John Senden missed a very good birdie opportunity from very short range at the par five 13th which could have moved him within two.

After missing his birdie at the 13th Senden then made a putt from a similar distance at the 14th for birdie and the margin was just two. John Senden has long promised more than he has delivered. He has one of the classic swings of Australian golf but has not always been able to finish off tournaments when he has gotten into contention. He has safely kept his card on the USPGA Tour in the four seasons he has played there but his 6th place this year at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is his best. Now it would seem was his chance to step up to the plate and to press for victory.

Senden missed the green at the 15th but made a great save for par and while he was doing that, Allenby holed a twelve foot par save himself at the 12th to maintain his two shot lead.

At the par five 13th Allenby was just short with his second and then pitched to five feet. If he could make that putt his cushion would be three and – with Senden in trouble at the 16th – perhaps even more. He did so but almost at the same time Martin Doyle, the odd man out here, was making birdie at the 15th to move to four under and at that moment, after Senden had made bogey, Doyle became Allenby’s closest challenger.

Allenby missed the fairway at the 14th and then found the front left trap with his approach. He recovered well to ten feet but missed and fell back to six under but as he was doing so Doyle was in the process of three putting the 16th and the difference remained at three in the favour of Allenby.

At the 15th Allenby drove it perfectly but was perhaps a little fortunate with his approach which flirted with the front bunker. It scrambled over and finished just off the front edge. He made par and the difference was still three. Ahead, Senden birdied the last to move back to three under and joined Sheehan at that score although Sheehan still had the dangerous closing holes to play. It was a good finish for Senden his best in Australasian Tour golf and will give him renewed belief in being able to finish tournaments off. He didn’t win but he did the next best thing. "I really thought the course set up was very good. It’s demanding and a s good as a major championship around the world. I think if you brought a world class field here you would not see scoring a lot better.

Doyle was long with his approach to the difficult seventeenth and when he took bogey any remote chance he might have had was – to all intents and purposes – gone.

At the 16th Allenby found the fairway bunker and could only get enough club on it to finish fifty yards short of the green. He took bogey there and at the 17th the leader was just short and the ball rolled all the way back down the hill. He pitched to five metres and when he missed his par saving putt he was only one ahead with the reachable but still dangerous par five 18th to play. Sheehan on the other hand chipped in from behind the green at the 17th and he too had moved to three under. In the group ahead Nick O’Hern holed from ten feet for his birdie and joined Sheehan and Senden at three under in a share of second.

The equation was simple. If Allenby could par or better, the title would be his unless Sheehan could find a birdie himself. Sheehan drove first and flirted with the trap but was safe. Allenby’s drive was incredibly long leaving a long iron to the green. Sheehan, knowing he needed a birdie, was unlucky to just catch the fairway trap over 100 metres short of the green and faced the difficult bunker shot. He hit it with perfection and the ball pitched just short of the green and ran up to five metres. Now Allenby with that long iron missed the green left but only just and was pin high. He had a little ridge to negotiate from there and did it successfully but still left himself just inside Sheehan’s. It was now a case of Sheehan needing to make his to force the issue with Allenby. He was not able to do so and Allenby had two putts to win. He took them both and the title was his by one over Sheehan, Senden and O’Hern.

Allenby created much drama prior to the final round but while there were moments when he appeared to not be in total control today it should be remembered that he led this event from start to finish and that in itself is taxing, never mind the issues he was facing with his hand.

Allenby now goes on to the Australian PGA and the MasterCard Masters with this win behind him and some time to work on his hand.

Mathew Goggin and Aaron Baddeley tied for fifth after both had made late statements in the tournament. Goggin had produced two of the best rounds in the tournament over the weekend – his 69 on Saturday the best of the day and today was the same when his two under 70 was the equal best of the day. After an opening 76, Goggin’s effort was simply stunning. Baddeley birdied the 14th and 15th and then eagled the last to join Goggin at two under. It was a finish by him that few others had matched at any stage of the week

One of the best efforts of the week came from 28-year-old Gold Coast golfer Matthew Ballard. Ballard, who has struggled as a professional, has turned things around in the last few months and had 71 today to finish inside the top ten and will secure his biggest cheque in professional golf. Ballard’s main concern on finishing was whether his effort will get him a start at the Australian PGA next week. Initial enquiries to the PGA Tour’s tournament office indicated that not to be the case and if that is so then he will head straight to the airport in order to pre-qualify at Noosa Springs on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast at 8.00am tomorrow morning. Such is the life of a golfer without status.

Another effort worthy of mention was that of Lucas Parsons who had all but disappeared from the radar screen in terms of his status as a professional. He has been forced to play Sunshine Tour and Von Nida Tour events in recent times but his round of 70 today which carried him into the top ten will give him much heart.

The leading amateur this week was Andrew Tampion, who finished in share of 17th.

This was a tournament that would be remembered for the controversy and publicity created by Mark Hensby on Tuesday, the brilliant rounds of Spencer Levin and Robert Allenby on Thursday, the drama surrounding the need to water the 12th green on Friday, and Robert Allenby’s hand issues on Saturday.

Importantly however the most enduring memory will be of Robert Allenby’s second Australian Open victory coming eleven years after his first.

“That was one hell of a tough day and I am glad now that I made such a good start on Thursday. This is one of the toughest courses in Australia if not the world.”

Allenby has been one of Australia’s most successful golfers over the last decade and it is hard to dispute that here at Moonah Links he was the best golfer this week also.

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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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