Old and the new do battle in Sydney
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2008 Australian Open | Preview | 10 Dec 2008
The Australian Open gets underway at the Royal Sydney Golf Club in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Rose Bay this Thursday and even before it starts the event has been dealt a blow.
The number two world ranked player in the field, Adam Scott, has been forced to withdraw after a kneecap dislocated a week ago has been further aggravated.
“It is a big letdown for me, said Scott. “It has finished off a bad run for me of injury and illness.”
“Since I broke my hand earlier this year it has been horrible. At Coolum I worked hard on my game, made a few changes and was really feeling good about my golf and thought I could have a good run at the Aussie events.”
Despite the absence of such a significant player, the tournament is expected to attract wide interest. With the exception of Scott, Nick O’Hern and Aaron Baddeley, all of Australia’s leading players are in the field along with Tim Clark, Darren Clark and John Daly. O’Hern is out with injury and Baddeley celebrated the arrival of his first child two weeks ago.
The tournament is being played at this venue for the second time since major remodelling took place five years ago, the first occasion was when John Senden birdied the final two holes to leapfrog Geoff Ogilvy, amongst others, in 2006 to win his first event in Australia.
To a large extent this week’s event matches up the established Australian stars against the emerging young Australians, who are on the verge of elevating themselves to that level.
With Scott not longer a factor, favouritism falls heavily on last week’s Australian PGA Champion and now number 11 in the world, Ogilvy. Two years ago Ogilvy was narrowly defeated by Senden and with such a tough win behind him last week and the mantle as the best player in the field this week, he must be one of the big hopes.
Robert Allenby comes of one of his best years in the US despite not winning there but his form over the last two weeks has not been good perhaps distracted by the failing health of his mother. Allenby has however a fine record in this event and could well feature.
Stuart Appleby seems to have lost his way of late after a good end to the USPGA Tour season. He finished 24th last week in Coolum after missing the cut at Huntingdale and therefore needs a big turnaround to contend for his second Australian Open title here.
Rod Pampling is in fine form at present following his win at Huntingdale and a third place at Coolum. His last half of the season in the US was not good but by spending three weeks at home prior to the Masters he has his game in the short of shape needed to win this week.
There would be many including this writer delighted to see Mathew Goggin win this week. He did much of the donkey work last week before struggling down the stretch at Hyatt Regency Coolum. If he was to get into that situation again he might handle things differently and surely a time will come when he is the last man standing in an event rather than falling at the final hurdle. With four top five finishes in his last eight starts his time in the winner’s circle is not too far away.
Peter Lonard’s putter was at its worst last week at Coolum but with any sort of improvement in that department his fortunes might improve significantly. He saves much of his good golf for this event having won at Moonah Links in 2003 and at the nearby Australian Golf Club in 2004. If the going gets tough this week and par becomes a sought after score then Lonard might come into his own. He has switched back to a short putter this week and his only win in the US came with the short putter.
Nathan Green did well at Huntingdale when 4th but was a little disappointing last week at the Australian PGA Championship despite a hole in one on Friday. He led at this golf course for three rounds in 2006 after one of the great rounds of Australian golf on the Thursday of that event. In the most horrific of conditions Green recorded an opening round of 67 and went on to lead into the final day before finishing 5th. His game is not far away from similar heroics.
Brendan Jones returns to Australia to play his first event here this season and after yet another great year in Japan he might just sneak under the radar. He has been remarkably consistent this season without winning and arrives in Sydney following a runner up finish at the season ending Golf Nippon Series event in Tokyo last Sunday. He finished third along with Richard Green for Australia at the recent World Cup. This is the first time Jones has played this layout since the changes.
After getting acclimatised to Australia last week in Queensland, Paul Goydos will be keen to justify his trip across the Pacific with a good finish this week. He played well on occasions at Coolum and any player capable of securing a playoff for the Players Championship has far greater credentials than most in this field. Prior to that Goydos was 7th in Phoenix.
Darren Clarke has battled back from the edge to win twice on the European Tour this season. While there has not been a lot to get excited about since his win at the KLM Open in the Netherlands in August he has not played badly and his class could take him a long way on this golf course.
Beyond the leading six or seven leading contenders the field is very tightly bunched in terms of chances. Many young emerging players get the chance to show their wares after great seasons in the US. James Nitties arrives after a stunning week at Q School, Marc Leishman, Jarrod Lyle, Aron Price and 2001 winner Steve Allan have all have claims in this event.
A young man attracting much interest this week is New Zealand’s US Amateur Champion Danny Lee. Lee played well at Huntingdale when 11th and in his very first start in a USPGA Tour event, finished 20th at the Wyndham Championship in September. It might be a bit much to expect him to contend in this event at this stage but at some time in the future he will be.
This is a very even contest played over a very fine golf course. There are few more ingredients needed to make this a great week in the suburbs of Sydney.