Australian Open shaping up as one of the best

BY | Australasian PGA Tour | 2002 Australian Open | Preview | 17 Nov 2002
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In what must be one of the most open of Australian Opens, the nation’s golfing championship gets underway this Thursday at a revamped Victoria Golf Club in Cheltenham, with a field stacked with high quality players, many of whom have tasted success worldwide this past year.

Admittedly Robert Allenby is the highest ranked player at number 18 on the rankings as this goes to print and there is not the star player like Els at last year’s event at the Grand in Queensland, but there is a depth and evenness to field that suggests a great battle for the title.

In addition to Allenby from the top fifty comes Charles Howell III now 24th, Rich Beem 25th, Stuart Appleby 36th, Craig Parry 41st and Adam Scott 47th. Throw in the likes of Phil Tataurangi a recent winner in Las Vegas, Craig Perks a winner of arguably the USPGA Tour’s ’fifth’ major, Stephen Leaney who won the BMW event in Germany, a revitalised Aaron Baddeley, Peter Lonard who performed beyond expectations in his first year in the US, Rod Pampling and John Senden both now accomplished USPGA Tour players, Peter O’Malley etc etc and we have the makings of one fiercely fought event. This does not of course include the almost countless array of young emerging talent such as Andrew Buckle, Eddie Lee, Marcus Fraser, Adam Groom etc.

Despite the fact that the Victoria Golf Club is considered by many to be one of the finest golf courses in the land, the Australian Open has only been staged here just twice previously. In 1961 Frank (Choppers) Phillips won the second of his two Australian Opens and in 1981, Bill Rogers capped an amazing year which had included a win at the British Open. It has played host to several Victorian Opens in recent times but now gets its chance to showcase its qualities to the golfing world once again.

There have been several changes since the Open was last played here. Mike Clayton and his design team were given the task of restoring many of the Alistair McKenzie features in the bunkering. McKenzie did not design the layout at Victoria but while in the area for the work at Royal Melbourne was asked to provide input in terms of bunkering positioning and shaping and Clayton and his team have worked to bring back what has altered over the years, with the fullness of time. The course had opened in 1927 at about the time that McKenzie was working on and at Royal Melbourne just across the road.

The first shot hit in anger was by the then Prime Minister Stanley Bruce who officially opened the course. Bruce’s father had been very much instrumental in the creation of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

The original layout has the course opening with a reachable par four but the Australian Golf Union, in their wisdom, have shortened the hole and it will now play as a long par three. It is a bit like long shorts or short longs you never quite know what they should be.

Both the front and back nines finish with two consecutive par fives but for the tournament the eighth hole will now become a par four. The par five eighteenth has had extra yardage added as during Victorian Opens played there in recent years most of the field were reaching with a mid to short iron.

The key holes down the stretch will be the uphill par four eleventh, the dangerous par four twelfth, the brilliant reachable par four fifteenth and the uphill par three sixteenth. It is typically sandbelt the Victorian Golf Club; you can almost smell golf when you set foot on the property.

It will offer a superb venue and for those Australians aspiring to win their national open, a victory here will mean they have won a highly regarded tournament on an equally regarded golf course.

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