Tournament favourite Adam Scott agrees with course designer Graham Marsh that Royal Pines will not be vulnerable to a savaging by the leading pros at this week’s Australian PGA Championship.
The layout hosts the Australian Ladies Masters each February where the women have pushed scores to 26 under the card and while a revamp of the original soft resort-style design is planned, Marsh has warned players such American star Ricky Fowler, Scott and compatriot and fellow Presidents Cup team member Marc Leishman not to get complacent.
Several holes have been lengthened, adding up to 180 metres to the overall total while Marsh has worked to ensure tighter fairways and tricky pin positions and the greens are set to be fast and demanding.
"How will it score? That’s the $64,000 question," Marsh said. "I don’t think they are going to find it quite as easy as they think they might. They’ve allowed the rough to grow, we’ve had some rain, so hopefully that will raise its head even more and show some teeth.
"Those greens are huge but there are lots of little nooks and crannies in them where they can tuck pins. I would suggest that if they did that, they could keep that scoring to a very reasonable level.
"What that will be will be very hard to predict. I think the course won’t be savaged like a lot of people believe it will be."
Scott said he had half a dozen birdies during a casual practice round with his father Phil last week but said players will need to take advantage of every opportunity to score.
"I hit a few good shots and didn’t really make any putts," Scott said. "The course has been presented really nicely.
"I’m sure there are going to be a lot of birdie opportunities out there come Thursday, but I’m not quite so sure it’s going to be as easy as everyone thinks if the greens stay as firm as they are."
Royal Pines general manager John Morris is confident the course will present a proper test.
"There hasn’t been major changes to the course but there has been enough to mean players will have to play very well to shoot the low scores," Morris said. "If there’s a little bit of wind about and they find the roughs, it will be challenging for them.
"These guys are capable on any course in the world but given the work we’ve done, I think it has upped the difficulty."
Scott will be given a massive welcome back to his home town after becoming the first Australian to win the US Masters.
The PGA will be the first event of a four tournament block he will play, with the Australian Masters and the World Cup to come at Royal Melbourne followed by the Australian Open.
Scott said he was intent on winning in Australia but also wanted to share his Masters green jacket with fans.
"I love the reaction people get when they see it. I might just put it on after the rounds and sign away, it’d be a fun surprise.
"I’ll certainly take more time than normal to sign and interact with the fans. Phil Mickelson does it for hours back in America and they love him. I want to make sure I get to share it with as many people as possible."
The Queenslander will start favourite in a high quality field that also includes world No. 9 American Brandt Snedeker.
The Gold Coast course takes up hosting rights after the event was moved from its previous home at Coolum.
By: Robert Grant