The wait is over at the Queensland Open
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2013 Isuzu Queensland Open | Preview | 21 Aug 2013
This week’s A$110,000 Isuzu Queensland Open, at the Greg Norman designed Brookwater Golf Club at Springfield west of Brisbane, gets the second half of the 2013 PGA Tour of Australasia schedule underway, the event the first of nine Tier One and Tier Two tournaments between now and the Australian Open in late November.
The Queensland Open is the most coveted title in Queensland Golf but for a range of reasons, mainly centred around a lack of funding and venues, this year will be the first since 2007 that the event has been played.
The 2007 version was won by Queenslander Ryan Haller at the Gainsborough Greens Golf Club on the Gold Coast, Haller not able to defend his long standing title this week as he is playing a Japan Tour event.
The field assembled is hardly one full of Australia’s best but that is understandable given the timing of the event and that it is targeted at many of Australia’s emerging players and the occasional established and credentialed player.
NSW’s Jake Higginbottom, the current New Zealand Open Champion, is the leading world ranked player (324) in the field but here is a host of golfers more than capable of winning the event and provide not only a monetary boost but the chance for some to build a little more security on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
19 year old Higginbottom has put together several good finishes in his rookie season on the Asian Tour in 2013 and will no doubt be heading back there before long. This event does however provide the perfect opportunity to ready his game for the remainder of the Asian Tour events beginning in three weeks time and for the balance of the PGA Tour of Australasia events he will play.
Higginbottom has had considerable success in Queensland in the past with victories at the Queensland Amateur Championship and the Keppera Bowl Championship.
Matthew Griffin has now been a professional for four years and is slowly but surely developing into a very fine player. He contended at the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum last year before finishing 8th and has continued to play very well in OneAsia Tour events since including a significant win at the SK Telekom Open. Griffin shapes as the man to beat this week.
New Zealander Mark Brown, along with Peter O’Malley and Stephen Leaney, is the most credentialed player in the field. Brown is a former winner of the PGA Tour of Australasia’s money list and a winner of the lucrative Johnnie Walker Championship.
In recent times Brown finished 3rd at the Australian Masters behind Adam Scott, 4th at the 2012 New Zealand Open and is the only player in this week’s field to have made the cut in a major championship this year. That came when he finished 44th at the Open Championship after shooting a course record 62 at Kingston Heath to make the field at Murfield.
South Australian left hander, Nick Cullen, has had considerable success in Queensland and is a player good enough to have won on the OneAsia Tour. He has performed consistently well in this level of event over the past eighteen months or so.
Kieran Pratt is a player good enough to have finished 4th at last year’s Australian Open, a performance many in this field could only dream of. Pratt has generally struggled since although one good finish at the Ballantines Championship in Korea has him in 31st position on the Asian Tour money list.
Matthew Stieger played well earlier in the year but over the past few months has not been quite so good. The 2012 NSW PGA Champion has only been a professional this year but the former Australian Amateur Champion is a class player at best so if he can produce close to that he could be a genuine chance.
Stephen Dartnall could be one for longer odds. The West Australian was the world number one amateur before turning professional and has been quietly working towards that same level again. Dartnall finished 8th at the Australian PGA Championship in 2012 and has missed only one cut since, that coming at the Open Championship where just to make the field was a great effort.
Matthew Giles is a former Web.Com Tour player and World Junior Champion who won the Victorian Open Championship earlier in the year and who has continued to play nicely on the mini tours in the US.
Cameron Smith and Daniel Nisbet are two of this country’s best amateurs over the past couple of years although both are now professionals, Smith playing in just his third event as a professional this week after playing two Web.Com Tour events. This is just the sort of event in which they could shine and gain a leg-up in their respective careers. Smith is the current Australian Amateur Champion while Nisbet was runner-up in that same event in 2012.
Queensland Golf has made a great contribution to Australian golf’s history, more especially Adam Scott, Jason Day and John Senden in recent years but Scott, Greg Norman, Baker-Finch and Wayne Grady have provided four of Australia’s last six individual major championship winners.
Given that history, the state’s most significant golfing title deserves a permanent place in Australian golf’s schedule. Let’s hope it now has one.