Australian PGA offers perfect wind down to Xmas
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2006 Australian PGA Championship | Preview | 06 Dec 2006
When the Australian PGA Championship left Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane after a two year stay and headed north to Hyatt Regency Coolum, there were many prepared to suggest that the event would not last in its new and regional location. After all it was at least 90 minutes from an all important population base capable of supporting an event of this nature.
Now, four years down the track, the event is perhaps the strongest in Australian golf and judging by this year’s event it seems to be continuing to grow bigger and bigger each year. The event was perhaps blessed with the presence of Greg Norman in its first couple of seasons and that helped it to survive in a relatively isolated area but once golfers started coming they haven’t stopped.
For many the event is like the Funai Walt Disney World event near Orlando in that it comes near the end of the season, has great weather and provides a family environment in which players, their wives and their children can enjoy the wide range of facilities offered by the world class resort at Hyatt Regency as they unwind towards Xmas.
The golf course at the resort is a Robert Trent Jones Jr designed facility but there is little comparison to the RTJ golf course across the Tasman in Auckland that many playing here battled with last weekend. It can get breezy as the course lies close to the ocean but in the main, scores of 17 or 18 under par have won the tournament over the four years at this course and with rain in the region in recent days the scores can again be expected to be around that mark.
The field assembled is close to the best that modern day Australian golf can muster. John Senden who won in the US in 2006 and who won the Australian Open just three weeks ago would have made it even better but he will do battle for Australia alongside Mark Hensby at the World Cup of Golf in Barbados and so has no chance to improve on his previous good finishes here or to take out the 2006 Australaisian Tour Order of Merit title.
That therefore leaves just four players capable of being the number one on the money list. Kevin Stadler has the edge at present courtesy of his massive cheque at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth but Nick O’Hern, Richard Green and Nathan Green are all capable of catching him dependant on what they and indeed what Stadler allows them to do. All except Stadler would need to win and in order for the American to hold them all at bay he would need to finish outside the top twenty.
The chances are many in a field that includes six players from the top fifty but many from outside of that group who appear to be approaching good form and who have performed well at Coolum previously are potential winners.
Adam Scott has not necessarily played well and in fact has played seldom in this event. He is clearly a much improved player in 2006 but that all important Australian home victory still eludes him. He challenged at the Australian Open and could again go well but I’m not sure he deserves to be the raging hot favourite he is.
Geoff Ogilvy was at one stage planning on playing the World Cup but an offer from the Australian PGA to play proved too attractive to turn down. He has seldom played this course but did play very well at the recent Australian Open and at the Grand Slam of Golf.
Robert Allenby held off a strong late challenge from Mattie Goggin last year to win the third of his three consecutive titles in Australia last year but just seems a little off the boil in recent weeks although not exactly playing badly. He will need to improve considerably if he is to challenge for his fourth Australian PGA Championship in the last eight years.
Stuart Appleby has won both of his Australian titles in Queensland and one of them at this very course when the event was known as the Coolum Classic. He did well at the recent Australian Open but was a disappointment at Huntingdale.
Peter Lonard appeared to be finding good form at both the Australian Open and the MasterCard Masters and with a record here that includes two wins in the last four years then he must be a consideration.
Nick O’Hern won his only tournament victory at this course in 1999 and has been a regular contender at Coolum since. He will be once again in the firing line on Sunday and if he was to win then many will be extremely pleased for the Western Australian.
Mattie Goggin finished runner up to Allenby last year and has had his best season in the US in 2006. If he was to go one better than in 2005 then he will cap off what has, to a large extent, been a break through year for him.
There are many others with chances almost too numerous to mention but the one certainly at Hyatt Regency Coolum is that it will be on of the most enjoyable weeks of the year for all and the perfect opportunity to begin the wind down to Xmas and New Year before the circle begins again in January.