Golf tournament weeks are very predictable things. Monday’s are fun, relaxed and players get to see the course for the first time. If they are lucky it will be a good one although the majority are easily pleased when it comes to the week’s test.
So long as the fairways are in good condition, the greens run truly and the bunkers are predictable the complaints will be limited to those to play poorly.
Tuesday isn’t quite as much fun as Monday. Practice rounds in this era of players trying every conceivable chip, bunker shot and putt grind on interminably, often threatening to reach six hours.
Veterans like Karrie Webb despair at it all whilst at the same time acknowledging it’s the way of this generation. The Korean (and Korean-born) players dominate the top of the game and the mantra is 'work beyond hard and leave nothing to chance'. The rest watch and adopt as they are forced to raise their own standards.
Wednesday is reserved for the pro-am. Tom Weiskopf, one of the most brilliant American players of the 1960s and 1970s once noted every player on the tour would personally send a crate of champagne to the Tour Commissioner if he stopped the pre-tournament custom of 18 holes with the amateurs.
It’s not going to happen, because they are a huge part of the commerce of professional golf and only the men’s major championships can afford to leave Wednesdays to proper practice.
Weiskopf too was referring to his experience of pro-ams in the United States where golfers tend to take themselves a lot more seriously than Australians. They were generally quite fun here because we understand our own sense of humour and sledging is an accepted part of life. Try an Australian sledge in Germany or America and see how many laughs you get.
Then it’s Thursday and the scorecard takes it place in the back pocket. Golf is a much different game than it was on Wednesday. Putts hit fearlessly towards the hole with nary a thought of a three-putt all of sudden creep towards the hole, with ensuing two-putt the primary purpose of the exercise.
Wide fairways suddenly look a little less wide and chances, which seemed like a good idea on Wednesday, are eschewed on Thursday in favour of the safer shot.
It was why watching Severiano Ballesteros was so much fun. The promise that came with following the brilliant Spaniard was that he would play with real flair and at some point in the round he would hit a shot no other player in the world would have thought of, and even if they did, they would neither have the skill nor the daring to pull it off.
The opening round at the Australian Women’s Open was a fairly predictable Thursday except the leader SooBin Kim shot a score no one saw coming. The Korean made a crazy rush of threes and fours with one deuce at the tricky short 14th and in the end it was nine birdies and 63.
Unknown here, she is therefore an unknown quantity and one wonders what Friday and then the weekend holds for her. It would be worth bearing in mind nineteen-year-old Korean In Gee Chung turned up at the U.S Women’s Open last summer and walked off with the most coveted trophy in the women’s game. The Americans had never heard of her but by the end of this year the one certainly in women’s golf is In Gee Chung will be very close to the top of the rankings.
Golf tournaments have their own way of distributing and redistributing the pressure and early leaders suddenly bear the expectation of the crowd, the players and themselves. It is the observation of the week, which interests the followers, and already this week in Adelaide promises to be a good one. The crowds are both bigger and more engaged than they were at Royal Melbourne last year.
If the lesson of this Open and the Victorian Open a couple of weeks ago in Barwon Heads is golf fans long deprived of good sport will turn up and support good events. This is a much better field that the Victorian Open but there is a list as long as your arm of top players who are not here. Yet it’s interesting golf on an interesting course and from here until Sunday it will surely be an engaging contest.