There have been many great rounds played over the years at the Australian Open. Gary Player’s twice shot 62 in the 1965 Open at Kooyonga but the championship had been moved at short notice from a drought stricken Royal Adelaide and was hardly arranged to test the game’s superstars, Player and Jack Nicklaus.
Five years later at Kingston Heath Player announced after an opening 71 he had no chance to win because he was afflicted with a hook only the unsympathetic and unresponsive Ben Hogan could cure.
He went out the next day and shot an extraordinary 65 prompting the great Peter Thomson, a winner of three Open’s himself, to accuse the South African of ‘laughable emotionalism’.
Player won seven opens, one more than Nicklaus but this week it was Jordan Spieth winning his first with a final round score almost beyond comprehension.
The Australian is the most difficult championship course in the country. The greens are small; they are surrounded by bunkers difficult to play from and defended by steep banks of short grass feeding the ball away from the flags.
Spieth was out in the final group with Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers, ten minutes behind the obvious choice of winner Adam Scott. Scott instead blighted his score and his chance by making a seven at the par five, 5th hole and in the end a par round was his return. It wasn’t a bad round but it was never going to put any pressure on Spieth.
The American relentlessly hit fairways and greens, birdied the 3rd, followed it up with three birdies in a row from the 5th and then finished up his 63 with four birdies over the final five hole stretch back to the clubhouse.
Whilst the birdies were the brilliant part of the score it would not be unreasonable to argue it was the run of six pars from the 8th, which cemented his win. The holes either side of the turn are the heart of the golf course and where so many had made mistakes during the championship.
Player’s low rounds were played early in the championship but Spieth earns extra points for doing his record score on Sunday when the pressure of a long week culminates. ‘I never left a shot out there’ was the greatest compliment he could play his round and rare are the days when a professional golfer can look back on a round and admit he couldn’t have scored any less.
Probably he is the brightest of the very young American players and it is more than heartening he seems to understand the importance of developing his game outside of America. Players can make fortunes without ever owning a passport by playing the one-dimensional courses found on the PGA Tour but to be judged a truly great golfer one needs to venture beyond the shores of the United States and both test and develop a game in unfamiliar conditions. Spieth played well in Japan last week and whilst The Australian is hardly a typical or traditional Australian golf course Spieth’s win will hopefully see him return, as Nicklaus and Player did, many times to our shores.
No matter what he does on his return visits he will never play a finer round than he did this Sunday in Sydney. In the hundred and ten year history of the championship no man has ever played a better round.