Jacob's Creek offers career boost for many
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2006 Jacob's Creek Open | Preview | 15 Feb 2006
The first of two consecutive events co sanctioned between the Australasian and Nationwide Tours gets underway on Thursday at the famed Royal Adelaide Golf Club in South Australia. This week’s event will be followed by the ING New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch next week.
Royal Adelaide was originally designed by local Cargie Rymill although the man who is given much of the credit for the layout was Alister McKenzie. He visited the course on his short but influential visit to Australia in the mid 1920’s, some twenty years after the original course was constructed and had his say in bunkering and routing issues on the course.
The layout is notable for the railway line that splits the course with six holes on the western side and the balance to the east. It is generally regarded amongst the best in Australia although just where it sits in that list is very much a subjective issue. Suffice to say however it is a high quality golf course and the event is blessed by being able to play on a layout that is so highly regarded in Australian and indeed World golf.
The co-sanctioning between the Australian and Nationwide Tours has had its contentious issues, more so from the Nationwide’s point of view and that of it’s players, but there is little doubt that their journey into this part of the world has had positive spin offs for those who have been fortunate enough to do well in either this event or next week’s ING New Zealand PGA.
The past four winners of this event have included three Australians and one American with Joe Ogilvie being the sole American to win this event. That was of course when the tournament was held at the nearby Kooyonga Golf Club in 2003 but last year’s winner here at Royal Adelaide was Steve Bowditch who will be playing in Los Angeles this week at the Nissan Open.
All four winners of the event have used their fast start to the season to go on and claim USPGA Tour status for the following season. Gavin Coles, Joe Ogilvie, Euan Walters and Steve Bowditch all earned the right to play the USPGA Tour as a result of the significant money available here. In fact three of the top five here in 2005 would go on to gain their USPGA Tour cards at year’s end.
Last week’s impressive winner in Perth, Kevin Stadler, is here, perhaps still confused about the options he has created for himself by winning the tri-sanctioned Johnnie Walker event. He now has full access to the European and Nationwide Tours. Essentially he arrived in Perth last week looking to prepare himself for the Australian weather and conditions he would face in Adelaide and to get his game in shape for this week and next week in New Zealand. The problem he has is one of those problems everyone here in this field would love to have.
Craig Parry has the game to do well around here and although he disappointed last week in Perth when brought undone by a last round of 75, his form earlier in the week is perhaps a better guide to what he might do here. Twelve of those who finished ahead of him last week will not be here in Adelaide so he has every right to be considered a real chance.
Peter O’Malley is the type of golfer whose game should suit Royal Adelaide. He was pleased with his form generally last week in Perth despite a disappointing last round of 73. He played in Dubai and made the cut there and improved last week when 21st. He appears to be closing in on the sort of form that has seen him win two such co-sanctioned events in this part of the world and this week he could well add another. He was 10th here last year.
American Tripp Isenhour is making his first visit here and might just find the adjustment difficult but he did win the opening event of 2006 Nationwide season in Panama.
Another American who did well in Panama was Kevin Gessino-Kraft. Kraft finished runner up to Isenhour there and has had considerable success on the mini tours before joining the Nationwide Tour in 2005. Like Isenhour he has not been to Australia and that may be the biggest hurdle for him to overcome.
Paul Sheehan had a great week at the Australian Open when runner up to Robert Allenby and finished 9th at the Mastercard Masters. He played in Dubai and Perth and while his finishes there were nothing special they were good enough to suggest that he is finding his form again after a six week break. He was 17th here last year and as one of the leading foreigners on the Japan Golf Tour, a win here would not be beyond him.
I never thought I would be one to promote David Diaz as a likely candidate in an event of this nature but given that he won the Victorian Open three weeks ago and just last week played well enough to finish 9th at the Johnnie Walker Classic, he clearly has found something in his game.
Gavin Flint highlighted last week, when 9th, just what a fine player he is and this offers a good opportunity for him to advance to another level. Flint has Asian Tour status in 2006 but these next two weeks offer a chance to gain further starts on the Nationwide Tour. He has quickly found his feet in professional golf after one of the great amateur careers and his progress will be watched with interest.
Aron Price played is yet another outstanding amateur who has done well in his first few months as a professional. The New South Wales golfer was a fine collegiate player in the US and now has a chance to play well enough to gain some sort of status on the Nationwide Tour. He finished runner up at the recent Victorian Open and is on the verge of a very successful professional career.
Andrew Buckle had a fine season in 2005 benefiting from the continuity of play that the Asian Tour offered him. He played well last week in Perth when 15th, especially considering what was a slow start to the event and like Price he is on the verge of an increasingly successful professional career.
Steve Allan is a good enough player to have finished runner up twice in USPGA Tour events and his good week last week when 18th indicated that he is close to something better than he has shown in the last couple of years.
There are many more chances in this event too numerous to mention here but what is intriguing is to witness how quickly or otherwise the strong American contingent adjust to the very Australian golf course that is Royal Adelaide. Australians have the edge in the four times the event has been played in Adelaide. There will be interest in whether or not the Americans can go some way towards balancing the ledger at all in 2006.
The event carries a purse of AUD$1 million making it by far the largest purse on the Nationwide Tour with the winner to receive AUD$180,000 and going a long way towards guaranteeing himself status on the PGA Tour in 2006.