Outstanding field lines up for Australian Open
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2007 Australian Open | Preview | 11 Dec 2007
The MFS Australian Open returns to the Australian Golf Club, the event last played at the elite Sydney club in 2004 when last week’s PGA Championship winner, Peter Lonard, prevailed over Stuart Appleby.
Lonard will again be favourite to repeat the heroics of 2004 when he reeled of a five birdies in his last eight holes including a chip in at the 17th to win. Lonard’s victory last week confirmed that the two month break he took before the MasterCard Masters is yielding dividends and he is now hungry for even more success this week.
The Australian Golf Club is one of the finest golf courses in Australia and Lonard’s love affair with it is perhaps further testimony to why he should be favourite this week.
“I have always loved the course, he said in a recent interview. “I remember playing there many years ago for the first time in a schoolboys event and being blown away by how good it was compared to what I had been used to at that stage and then in I think it was the 1990 Open when I played in a group between Singh and Norman and hit two great shots to the 18th and made eagle in front of the huge crowd waiting for Norman to finish. Those two occasions secured a place in my heart for the Australian Golf Club and certainly the win in 2004 didn’t hurt either.”
The Australian Golf Club, which is located in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, first played host to the Australian Open in the event’s inaugural staging in 1904 but the course was extensively remodelled in the mid 1970’s by Jack Nicklaus who was commissioned by the late Kerry Packer to do so. Since that time it has played host to the event on eight further occasions.
Recent rain in Sydney has caused its concerns for tournament organisers but, although further rain is forecast for early in tournament week, the actual tournament days are expected to be fine and warm.
This year’s event has nearly every one of Australia’s leading players in the field the notable exception being the world number seven, Adam Scott, who had committed to being the best man at a friend’s wedding before a scheduling change for the event. Even without his presence however the event promises a great battle between Australia’s best players with the likes of Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Rod Pampling and Geoff Ogilvy adding even further strength to the impressive field that lined up last week at the PGA Championship.
John Senden is the defending champion after his brilliant win in 2006 when he birdied the final two holes to beat Geoff Ogilvy at the nearby Royal Sydney Golf Club. The favourite, however, is likely to be the rejuvenated Lonard ahead of recent MasterCard Masters winner, Baddeley. Baddeley did not play in Queensland last week but he is coming off his best season in golf and as the second highest ranked player in the field (behind Ogilvy) and as a two time winner of the event he deserves serious consideration.
And what of the leading world ranked player in the field? Ogilvy has played in South Africa and Japan in his most recent starts and has done well enough to be a factor again this week. He finished 6th in the Nedbank Challenge two weeks ago and prior to that had finished 4th in the Visa Taiheiyo tournament in Japan. They are his only two starts in the last two months but, as Lonard showed last week, a break can work wonders. Ogilvy stands a chance of going one better than last year.
Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby are both good enough players to contend this week although Appleby’s missed cut last week at Coolum was a surprise. Prior to that he went close at the MasterCard Masters and as the runner up in this event the last time it was played here he might do well.
Allenby has not been all that impressive in recent months. He was 10th at the Mastercard Masters but may well have done his chances this week some harm with a self confessed dislike for the introduction of a FRB Open style stadium hole at the 11th at the Australian Golf Club. He might bear the brunt of a few larrikins on that hole alone for daring to disagree with the introduction of such a concept.
John Senden, Nick O’Hern and Rod Pampling seem a little short of their best at present although O’Hern did produce one very good round at Coolum last week but Nathan Green is playing his way into form and could do well.
Green’s final round of 64 at Coolum last week was as impressive as the score suggests it was. He appears to be swinging the club as well as ever and having led this event into the final round last year he will be keen to put that right and win his first Australasian Tour event on Australian soil.
Brendan Jones finished off his Japan Golf Tour season in style with wins at the Visa Taiheiyo and then produced a last round 61 at the Golf Nippon Series to win his third event of the season. He has a low profile in his own country but his success in Japan cannot be questioned and this week offers a chance for the Canberra golfer to show Australians just how much game he has.
Another player who has done well in Japan in recent months is New Zealander David Smail who interestingly enough finished third at this venue and in this event in 1996 when far less a player than he is now. His runner up placing to Lonard last week at Coolum gives every indication that his good end of season form in Japan will continue and his no fuss style might be just the type required to do well this week.
Richard Green showed last week at Coolum that the form he lost through injury late in the season is returning and if that is the case then a player capable of finishing 4th at the Open Championship is more than capable of contending in this event.
There are many more players capable of contending if not winning the event. The American challenge is headed by the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year Brandt Snedeker, while Ryan Moore, Kevin Stadler and Jason Gore are all capable of winning this at their best.
Several Asian and Japan Golf Tour players are in the field as part of the PGA Tour and Golf Australia’s desire to embrace a closer relationship with that region, the best of them perhaps the Japanese star Toshi Izawa who is a good enough player to have finished 4th at the Masters in 2001 and finished runner up to Robert Allenby at the Nissan Open that same year. He has won 16 events on the Japan Golf Tour including this year’s Japan PGA Championship.
This year’s MFS Australian Open promises to be one of the best ever with nearly all of Australia’s best and emerging talent on display along with a nice mixture of highly regarded internationals.