So much anticipation was in the air at Royal Sydney today when curtain rose on the Scotty and Rory Show. Would we see the theatrical drama of so many great golfing rivalries of days gone by in as these two gentlemen of the game went head-to-head? The crowd was massive stretching six and seven deep down the right-hand side of the fairway of the short par four there was no spectator access on the left through the scrub and golf fans were still pouring into the course. Jack Nicklaus once described the Australian Open Championship as the fifth major of the world, and the names on the Stonehaven Cup are among the most legendary in golf. One suspects the Golden Bear only made the comment for local consumption a little flattery never goes astray but our Open is of historical importance as it is the fifth oldest championship behind The Open, US Open, South African Open and the Canadian Open that started in 1904 just a few months before our first Open. There is no history of rivalry between Adam Scott, the world No 2, and the former world No 1 Rory McIlroy (now at No 6) for they ve rarely been paired together, but maybe this would be the start of a long head-to-head rivalry between two of the best ball strikers in the game. And, what a glorious afternoon Sydney turned on after the squally rain and wind of the previous afternoon and our appetite was whetted even more when they both birdied the 274-metres opening hole. But, after the pleasantries and shake of the hands between the pair on the first tee, it was down to business. Scott s caddie Steve Williams who was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods 14 majors strode purposively ahead of the boss to get his yardages to consult with Scott on his arrival. It’s understood Scott s former caddie, the very likeable Tony Navarro, did all the yardages for Scott in his time on the bag, but when Williams joined Scott he insisted he too carried a yardage book to give a second opinion. The contribution of Williams in Scott s resurrection to heights we always felt he was capable of cannot under-estimated. He has become the 15th club in Scott s bag. On the greens, when not holding the flag, Williams prowls around the green looking for a white spot on the front nine and a yellow spot on the back nine placed by rules officials as the intended pin placements for the following day. He scribbles in his yardage book. The keen-eyed armchair watcher would have spotted Williams sprint across the back of the green on the 14th in the final round of the World Cup to watch Scott s bunker shot race across the green and past the flag to role down a swale at the back. He wanted to see the line of the next shot Scott would play. Many wonder how Scott will fare when the Royal & Ancient/USGA anchoring of putters, but maybe his biggest problem to sort is a replacement for Williams who has indicated he ll become a part-time caddie from 2015. But, after they traded birdies on the opening hole, an anti-climax loomed on the clear horizon. McIlroy s drive on the par five second into the scrub while Scott hit a beauty that split the fairway beyond the vision of the near-sighted. Good shot, Adam, he said as walked off in search of his ball that, fortunately, had been found by one of the many re-shirted volunteer marshals spread around the Royal Sydney layout. The Ulsterman managed to get club-head on the ball to pitch it out sideways while Scott hit a majestic wood that momentarily found the par five green before rolling over the back. Mcilroy showed his class by manufacturing par while Scott failed to get up and down for birdie from the back. Hole halved. Would it become a match play scenario where both players were so intent on watching each other with no concern for others who might challenge? One of the great rivalries of golf was that of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Palmer was the king whose sheer magnetism drew the masses while, in the early days, Nicklaus was the fat guy with the crew cut who interfered with Palmer s love affair with the American public. No one likes their love making interrupted, especially by a fat guy. Fans would stand behind bunkers with signs: In here fat Jack. Call it public sledging. So often they came together at the tail of the field and, while there were some classic confrontations, there were other that were duds as they watched each other like cat and mouse with neither at the centre of the podium at the finish. The great rivalries go back in the history of golf the great triumvirate of Vardon, Taylor and Braid before the turn of the 20th century, the remarkable amateur Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, the Palmer/Nicklaus duo with Gary Player joining the party, and then the Nicklaus/Trevino/Watson era and, then, of course we had Nick Faldo and Greg Norman. There were a couple of classics, and both times the Englishman triumphed. They teed off together for the third round of the 1990 Open Championship at St Andrews tied at the top with Norman having complied a pair of 66s while Faldo began 67-65. Faldo blew the Shark away with a third round 67 to Norman s 76. We all know what happened in the 1996 US Masters; Scott admits to crying his eyes out while watching on TV as a kid. When a fledgling rivalry between Scotty and Rory looked to have fizzled, the golfing gods smiled, while the players did their bit as well to have Golf Australia beaming and reckoning there will be record crowds tomorrow. McIlroy, rallied. He was two over for the day after just six holes, but finished with a two under 70 while Scott carded a 68. There is four shots between them coming into tomorrow s final round and they ll be in the company of each other once more. Scott needs at 68 to go into the history books as the low winning Open score at Royal Sydney. Mark Calcavecchia, who won here in 1988, finished 19-under the card and the record for the Open itself in 24-under by Gary Player in the 1965 at Adelaide s Kooyonga layout, so he needs a 63 to remove Player from the record books. Late this afternoon, Scott revealed the green jacket for the first time in Sydney when he spoke with corporate types in the Emirates marquee and then went out side to sign autographs for those fans still remaining at the course. Tonight, the jacket will get another airing when he is the guest of honour at the annual Australian Golf Writers Association dinner where he will be handed a plaque as our 2013 honoree of the year. What other choice was there.
Author: Peter Stone at Royal Sydney Golf Club