Centenary PGA Championship assembles strong field

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 Australian PGA Championship | Preview | 29 Nov 2005
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The Cadbury Scwheppes Australian PGA Championship, held this week at the Hyatt Regency Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is in its centenary year and the tournament has assembled a field befitting such an occasion. Australia’s number one player, Adam Scott, is seeking greater fortunes in Southern Africa but Australia’s other leading golfers from the world’s top one hundred, with the exception of Steve Elkington and Geoff Ogilvy, are here to mark one of the special occasions in Australian golf.

The Hyatt Regency Coolum course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr layout on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, some 90 minutes drive north of Brisbane. The course has played host to the event since its organisers SFX and the Australian PGA took what was perceived as a gamble at the time in 2002 to bring it to this somewhat out of the way region. In the ensuing years the tournament has grown to the point where it now rivals the Australian Open as the country’s leading event and the field assembled this year provides further proof of such a claim.

Trent Jones is actually here this week as changes are in store for the layout to accommodate the introduction of real estate on the prime beachside land across the David Lowe highway which splits the existing layout.

The headliner and current leading world ranked player is Michael Campbell who comes off solid tournaments in Spain, China and Japan in recent weeks and will be perhaps the major attraction given the standout year he has had in 2005 – a year which of course has included his brilliant US Open win at Pinehurst.

The next highest world ranked player here and perhaps one who has a real chance of recording just his second win in professional golf is Nick O’Hern, whose only win on a recognised Tour came here in the last event of the 20th century when he won the Coolum Classic in late 1999. He has developed into one of the world’s leading players, more especially over the last eighteen months, and comes here following a great week in China when third and last week when he finished in a share of second at Moonah Links. He finished 4th last year and appears on the verge of something even more special.

Robert Allenby arrives this week after an outstanding win at Moonah Links where he led throughout and fought off all sorts of demons over the closing holes. Allenby is a two time winner of this event although those wins came at Royal Queensland, further south in Brisbane. His hand problem is his biggest concern and indeed for those considering backing him but as he showed last week it was very much a case of beware the wounded golfer. Given the drama surrounding last week’s event’s then Allenby will be boosted by his win but no doubt mentally taxed by what was a most demanding week.

Stuart Appleby was close enough last week to suggest that he is not far away from his third win in Australia. His first win came at this course in 1998 and he has often played well in Queensland and on Bermuda greens in the US. He, of course, won the Australian Open at the Grand Golf Club on the Gold Coast and won this year in Hawaii when defending his Mercedes Championship title. He should do well here.

Peter Lonard is the defending champion and has recorded two wins at this course, albeit the first one shared with Jarrod Moseley. Although he was not all that impressive when attempting to win his third Australian Open last week, there were genuine excuses for his perhaps disappointing week at Moonah Links. He had only arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday morning after a long trip from Portugal, so perhaps that was not the ideal preparation for what was potentially an historic week. He will be better prepared this week and can be expected to improve. He certainly drove the ball well last week but switched between the long and short putters suggesting that he is not yet happy with his putting. If Lonard is able to win he would create a unique double having won the centenary Australian Open last year.

Rod Pampling did well at stages last week and finished 8th. He was runner up at this course to Peter Senior two years ago and while he may not be at the peak he was at earlier in the year when his finishes included a fifth placing on debut at Augusta, he is playing well enough to feature here. He does not win often – in fact he has won only twice in his professional career – but he has often played well at Coolum.

John Senden’s runner up finish last week at the Australian Open was his best in Australian golf tournaments. He played well here last year and while he has trouble finishing tournaments off he will arrive this week with greater belief in his ability to do so thanks in the main to his near miss last week.

Mark Hensby has not been in good form in recent months but clearly he is a player good enough to have finished third at Pinehurst, fifth at Augusta and to have won on the European Tour in 2005. Like Lonard he raced back from Portugal for the Australian Open last week and did reasonably well despite his much publicised comments on Greg Norman.

Ryan Palmer is a player good enough to have won on the USPGA Tour in the last fourteen months and to have finished third behind Tiger Woods at the NEC event in August and third at the Funai Classic in Orlando six weeks ago. He is a much more accomplished player then when he was last here in 2003. That year he finished 14th after a poor last round.

Shaun Micheel is, of course, the USPGA Champion from 2003 and as such must be given some respect but in recent times his form has been less than impressive for a player of his status. He did finish fifth in his last start at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic but that aside his form is perhaps too inconsistent to expect much from him this week.

Camilo Villegas is a player going places and on a golf course perhaps unfamiliar to him last week at Moonah Links, he was in the mix for most of the week. He has had an outstanding season on the Nationwide Tour in 2005 and can now claim USPGA Tour status. This might just be the type of golf course to suit him and having played his collegiate golf in Florida, the conditions that will prevail this week will be of no concern to the Colombian.

Craig Parry did not have a good week at Moonah Links perhaps because he convinced himself early on that he did not like the course. He finally played well on Sunday and although he has not played a lot in recent weeks he does have a good record over the Hyatt Regency Coolum layout.

Peter Senior was perhaps a surprise winner in 2003 and finished 6th here last year. He played well last week at stages and might just find a way to feature this week on a golf course where he knows he can play well.

There are of course many others in with good chances including the likes of Mathew Goggin and Greg Chalmers both of whom played well last week and have worked their way back to the USPGA Tour in 2005.

The tournament is shaping up to be a great contest with a real mix of established and emerging players with great chances to establish a place in Australian golfing history with a win in this historic event.

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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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