Australasian Tour gets underway at Huntingdale
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2007 MasterCard Masters | Preview | 20 Nov 2007
The Australasian Tour gets underway again this week when the co-sanctioned MasterCard Masters is played over the Huntingdale Golf Club, one of the famed Sandbelt courses of Melbourne.
The event begins a stretch of four consecutive tournaments over the next four weeks, which include the Michael Hill New Zealand Open which is also co-sanctioned with the European Tour, the Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship and the MFS Australian Open in addition to this week’s contest.
The defending champion would have been the Englishman, Justin Rose, but this week he joins forces with Ian Poulter in a formidable English combination at the World Cup in Shenzhen in China. The 2004 winner and last year’s runner up, Richard Green, therefore is the sole player from the top three in 2006 in this week’s field. Green’s joint runner up Greg Chalmers is in the USA having graduated through the Second Stage of Q-School last week.
The man who finished fourth last year, Queenslander Aaron Pike, missed out at the Second Stage of qualifying for the USPGA Tour and has received a last minute invite. His attempt to repeat the heroics of last year will be watched with interest. He led into day three and then fought strongly, especially for one of his experience and actually recovered from a bunker at the last for bogey to finish 4th. It, along with Rose’s victory, was the talking point of last year’s event.
This year’s event brings together all of Australia’s best with the exception of Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Nick O’Hern and Nathan Green, the latter pair representing Australia at the World Cup of Golf. Other than those four, the line-up is a veritable who’s who of Australasian golf and along with previous winner, Michael Campbell, provides a formidable down-under line-up for the European contingent.
Aaron Baddeley was Australia’s best in the USA in 2007 and without a win in Australia since his victory at the Greg Norman International in 2001 he will be keen to bring his US form home.
The MasterCard Masters is being played as a co-sanctioned European Tour event for the second year and while the superstars of European golf are noticeably absent, there are many emerging and several established players more than capable of winning the event.
The appearance of Rory McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, is sure to prove an attraction for those who recognise the 18-year-old as one of the game’s greatest prospects.
Thomas Bjorn is the most credentialed of the Europeans here this week but he is coming off a rather ordinary season in 2007 and will need to improve. He did finish 9th at the recent Volvo Masters but he finished well back at last week’s Hong Kong Open.
The tournament may have lost some of the glamour it once had but there is little doubt that by Sunday afternoon that will count for little as Australia’s best vie for one of this country’s most sought after titles.