Date: November 19, 2006
Author: John Huggan

A fitting climax

By John Huggan The winning score, while not paramount, is usually a pretty good indicator of how any golf course has coped with the demands of a golf tournament. So is the quality of those players high on the leaderboard; good golfers tend to prosper on good golf courses set up to properly display and enhance their talents rather than stifle their abilities. By such measures, this MFS Australian Open at the re-vamped Royal Sydney has to be judged a huge success. With established names like John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby, Gavin Coles, Adam Scott, Nathan Green, Steven Bowditch, Brett Rumford and Aaron Baddeley all in contention, the gratifyingly large number of spectators had much to enjoy. And a low total of eight under par for four rounds, just about right in these modern times, was a sure indication that good scores were possible but had to be earned in conditions that were testing but not impossible. There was a great atmosphere out there, confirmed Ogilvy, the eventual runner-up, whose bogey-free closing round of 67 proved to be one agonising shot too many. That was a pretty stellar leader board, one that would not have looked out of place anywhere in the world. It must have been a lot of fun to watch and is the reason why so many of us come back here to play. The US Open champion wasn t the only one happy with the way Royal Sydney had coped with some of the world s very best golfers. The biggest thing this week proved is that you don t need excessive length and long rough to make a great event, contended Mike Clayton, course consultant to Golf Australia for the MFS Australian Open. What was especially pleasing to see was the play of Stuart Appleby around the greens. He hit some wonderful pitches and chips off lies that gave him a chance to do so. In other words, he was hitting difficult shots off good, tightly cut lies rather than easy shots from hard lies in unnecessary long grass. A lot of imagination was both required and encouraged. Just as pleasing was the spectacular finish produced by Senden, the new champion. As Ogilvy sportingly acknowledged, anyone who stiffs his tee-shot at the penultimate hole, then does likewise at the last more than deserves everything he gets. But the course and the way it was set up for the final round is due some credit, too. All too often officials make the mistake of placing the pins in the toughest places for the final round of a tournament. When that is the case, the chances of a potential fast-finisher shooting a really low round are severely limited. But that was not the case at Royal Sydney. A round in the low 60s was on. Steven Bowditch hinted as much when he was seven under par through 13 holes. And, less than an hour later, Senden underlined the point by shooting a seven under par 65 to win by one. Even better was the exciting climax to what was a terrific event. The best closing holes on the very best courses are those on which a wide range of scores is possible. Senden proved that birdies could be achieved if the player was good enough and brave enough to go for the flags. Then again, pars of the routine variety could easily be had by those content to play more conservatively for the middle of the greens. And bogeys were there for those too bold for their own good. Third-placed Appleby fell into the last category. Needing a birdie to tie Senden, the 35-year old fired his approach right over the flag and, sadly for him, over the green as well. Which just about summed up the week. The MFS Australian Open – a little bit of everything and fun from start-to-finish.