Date: November 30, 2010
Author: Steve Orme, Sportal

Australian Open preview: Shark circling again

A shoulder injury prevented Greg Norman from competing for the coveted Stonehaven Cup last year – but &aposThe Shark&apos is ready to get back in the water at the 2010 Australian Open presented by Century 21. The 55-year-old will join a star studded field of local and international stars including Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples and two-time major champion John Daly at the remodelled Lakes Golf Club in Sydney beginning on Thursday. Norman, who won the first of his five Australian Open titles in 1980 at the Lakes, has played just four competitive rounds in 2010 after returning from shoulder surgery in September. Despite his limited preparation, the ultra-competitive Queenslander will be out to prove a point against the current crop of Australian stars headlined by defending champion Adam Scott, former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy and JB Were Masters champion Stuart Appleby. But with strong winds and possible rain expected to greet the players, the challenging Lakes layout looms as the toughest opponent for Norman and the rest of the 156-man field. The 6315m course, redesigned by Mike Clayton 18 months ago, requires accuracy off the tee while the undulating greens demand the upmost respect at all times. Scott, the highest ranked player in the field at No.20, returns to Sydney in top form having claimed a third Singapore Open title a fortnight ago. It has been a spectacular 12 months for the 30-year-old who also won the Valero Texas Open on the PGA Tour in May. Appleby is also a man in top form and the Victorian will be desperate to improve on his runner-up finish at New South Wales Golf Club 12 months ago. The 39-year-old showed glimpses of his best golf at last year&aposs tournament, and his strong play signalled the beginning of a dramatic turnaround which culminated with a spectacular final-round 59 to claim The Greenbrier Classic in August. He produced more final round heroics at Victoria Golf Club last month when he fired a spectacular six-under 65 on Sunday to claim the Masters by a solitary shot. Ogilvy, who won the first event of 2010 on the PGA Tour in Hawaii, showed glimpses of his early season form with a T-8 finish at the Masters and is poised to feature heavily again this week. The evergreen Couples, who remains a fan favourite everywhere he goes, headlines the international contingent. The 51-year-old American won four tournaments in his debut season on the Champions Tour and also showed he can still match it with the youngsters after finishing sixth at the US Masters in April. Daly returns for his third consecutive Australian Open after a frustrating year on the PGA Tour. He made a respectable 14-of-20 cuts but managed just one top-25 finish from 20 starts. Other local players to watch include Aaron Baddeley, who won the last of his two national titles a decade ago, while NSW Open Champion Peter O&aposMalley and NSW PGA winner Steven Bowditch both take strong form into the tournament. Senior Australian Open winner Peter Senior will also be looking to continue his recent good form, as will reigning Australian Amateur champion Matt Jager and fellow young-gun Kieran Pratt who both have made strong starts to their fledgling professional careers. This year&aposs tournament will also have a distinct Asian flavour with 17 Korean – including British Amateur champion Jin Jeong – 12 Chinese, five Thailand and two Japanese golfers teeing it up in the penultimate event of the OneAsia Tour season.