squo;s Australian golf’s week of weeks – the battle for the time-honoured Stonehaven Cup.
And with a world-class field garnering global attention, here’s your one-stop guide to this week’s Emirates Australian Open.
WHERE: The Australian Golf Club, Sydney
HOW TO FOLLOW: Channel 7 live, www.ausopengolf.com and AO Radio
Rory McIlroy, world No.1, Adam Scott (No.3) and Jordan Spieth (No.14) spearhead the best field in Australia this year including a host of players from the US PGA Tour.
WHAT’S AT STAKE:
* $1.25million (first prize $225,000)
* Exemptions into the Open Championship ( British ) will be extended to the leading 3 players finishing within the Top 10 places who are not otherwise exempt.
* Minimum 32 world ranking points
The Australian Open was first played in 1904 at this club, the national championship host for an18th time. Some of the game’s greatest players have their name on the Stonehaven Cup, including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson and Greg Norman.
In recent years, the tournament has regained its past lustre, with the modern who’s who among its winners. McIlroy and Scott have each won it in the past five years and both are desperate to make it No.2 this time around.
THE RORY FACTOR
Rory McIlroy is defending the title he won at Royal Sydney last year by a shot from Adam Scott. Back then, the Northern Irishman was in a lull. Since winning his first tournament in Australia, he has surged back to No. 1 in the world, winning four tournaments in 2014 including two majors — the Open Championship and the US PGA. He is a remarkable player to watch; hits the ball amazing distances.
THE ADAM FACTOR
Adam Scott led the Australian Open from the opening day to the 72nd hole at Royal Sydney last year. One poor shot – an iron that landed near the flag but ended up in a hollow behind the green — cost him the title. McIlroy birdied and was good enough to take the opportunity that was offered. Scott has admitted this week it’s still a “thorn in his side” – and he wants revenge.
Jordan Spieth is one of the best young players in the world, currently No. 14 on the rankings but previously in the top 10. He is just 21 but already has a reputation for being one of the best shotmakers in golf. It is the Ryder Cup star’s first visit to Australia and he will be worth seeing.
Of the seven amateurs in the field, four are members of the Golf Australia National Squad – Ryan Ruffels, Todd Sinnott, Antonio Murdaca and Lucas Herbert. After a string of great results in amateur and professional events in the lead-up, pay special attention to the future of Australian golf.
Looks a bit like Augusta National with its emerald fairways, pristine greens and white bunkers. Twice redesigned by Jack Nicklaus, it has hosted 17 previous Opens, most recently in 2007 when Craig Parry won. Plays long and tough and with totally reshaped and realigned greens, there’s no home course advantage to anyone as they all learn the nuances of Nicklaus’ alterations.
Our team is deep, with Mark Hayes, Martin Blake, Peter Stone, Michael Clayton and John Huggan penning the words.
Andrew Maher and Bree Laughlin interview the players on course for AO TV.
The new initiative is AO Radio — a full radio broadcast done from the course, with roving reporters, analysis and interviews. Spectators can collect earpieces at the course for free, and the 20 hours of live broadcast can be accessed online or through the AusOpenGolf app for Iphones and Androids. It begins at 11am Thursday, Sydney time.
While there are many spectacular holes at The Australian, including an aesthetically stunning closing stretch of the front nine, there is one hole that will make or break rounds.
The 18th is a risk-reward masterpiece – a par five that is eminently reachable in two, but will invariably penalise those who go for broke from the wrong position. Water on the right and a narrow landing area at the neck of the green is a double-edged sword. There will be eagles, there will be double-bogeys – ideal for spectators in a grand amphitheatre surrounding the green.
TIPS FROM THE MEDIA ROOM
Stephen Pitt (Golf Australia chief executive officer): Hard to go past Adam Scott. It felt like he was getting better each round and this trophy means a lot to him.
Patrick Smith (The Australian): Adam Scott had good form at the Australian Masters and he has the incentive to turn the tables on Rory. I think it’s his Open.
Bruce Young (freelance): Boo Weekley has had a run under his belt last week at Metropolitan, he’s better off on an American-style golf course this week.
Iain Payten (Daily Telegraph): James Nitties is a perennial bridesmaid, and he is due for a win.
Olivia McMillan (PGA Tour): Cameron Smith is the man this week. He’s been flying under the radar, he hasn’t had any pressure on him and has a pure putting stroke.
Martin Blake (Golf Australia): You can’t go past the best player in the field, Rory McIlroy. If he’s on, no one can beat him.