Date: November 06, 2013
Author: Martin Blake /

Australian PGA Championship preview

The Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola is one of the oldest professional events of this country&aposs major golf tournaments but its move to Royal Pines on the Gold Coast represents a new era for the storied event. The tournament, which tees off tomorrow morning, has spent the past 11 years domiciled at the Coolum resort course owned by the businessman, raconteur and new parliamentarian Clive Palmer, and previously by the Hyatt group. It was a comfortable venue for everyone, not least the players who tended to take their families for an end-of-season holiday, and not to mention a fine golf course. But the PGA of Australia had a falling out with Palmer last year that was as spectacular as it was real; a day before the tournament there were lawyers from both sides in heavy negotiations over signage that would determine whether the event could actually go ahead. In the end it was played and won by Daniel Popovic, but the PGA was never going back to Coolum, with the famous dinosaur figures dotted around the venue, after that. Royal Pines is just north of Surfer&aposs Paradise and its famous strip of golden beaches and is widely known, having hosted the ANZ/RACV Ladies Masters for more than a decade, but it is not as good a course as Coolum, and there has been some debate in the industry over its suitability for a tournament of this magnitude. It is not a bad course – quite suitable for a resort – but it has huge flat greens that will be easy targets for professionals. Karrie Webb shot 61 there on the last day of the Ladies Masters in 2010 to provide an indication of how a good ball-striker can pull the course apart. Having said that, it has been tweaked, with some tees moved back to increase the challenge, and there is plenty of water. But it is fair to say the players will know as they tee it up tomorrow that par scoring will not take them too far. Fifteen or 20-under will be required to win this tournament. The PGA represents an historic moment as Adam Scott, Gold Coast local and Australia&aposs first Masters champion, makes his first appearance in this country since the triumph at Augusta National in April. Scott donned the famous green jacket for a sponsors&apos function at Royal Pines last night, and will receive the keys to the city from the local mayor after today&aposs pro-am. Organisers have designated Friday as &aposgreen day&apos, and urged patrons to wear green to celebrate Scott&aposs triumph. It is a fine gesture and should be a fun day. Scott&aposs form is problematical. He won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf on October 17 at his last start, then rested up at home in preparation for a gruelling four-tournament swing that includes the PGA, the Talisker Australian Masters in Melbourne next week, the ISPS Handa World Cup at Royal Melbourne&aposs composite course and the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney in consecutive weeks. Scott is careful with his schedule, and would not normally venture four consecutive tournaments, but he wants to take part in what amounts to a celebration of his win at Augusta. American Brandt Snedeker was the second-ranked player in the field but Snedeker was troubled by a knee injury in China last week at the HSBC Champions and has withdrawn. He has had scans on his left knee and faces some time out of the game. That leaves Victorian Marc Leishman as the man who will be expected to challenge Scott, an irony since they were on the 18th green at Augusta together seven months ago when the Queenslander buried his birdie putt to ensure he was at least in a playoff for the Masters, prompting his &aposCOME ON AUSSIE!&apos cry. Presidents Cup player Leishman had contended on the final day but ended up finishing fourth. Scott commented recently on a photograph that showed his countryman fist-pumping as that putt dropped, an image he had not previously seen. They high-fived immediately afterward, but Scott was not originally aware of Leishman&aposs little fist pump. “I&aposve had a lot of comments about the fist pump in the background and all that, and it was probably not really like me to do that,&apos&apos said Leishman. “I rarely fist pump my own putts. I think I just knew what it meant for Australia and for &aposScotty&apos. It was just exciting. It&aposs good to see a mate of yours do well. We thought it was probably good enough to win, when he made that putt but it was great that he could keep himself composed in the play-off and knock it off and get one for himself and Australia. “I&aposve definitely never seen Scottie like that. He was going off and rightly so. Obviously he&aposs put a lot of hard work on it and it was a huge relief when that putt goes in. Everyone&aposs seen that putt a 100 or a 1000 times, and you know exactly what it does, but to execute it under the pressure he was under was a pretty big deal and it was great to see him do that. “I had a three-footer left and couldn&apost really feel my hand, it was just sort of ringing and all that. it was bright red. He just came over and he screamed &aposC&aposmon Aussie&apos in me face, when we sort of did that little high five. Like I said, it was great. It&aposs great to look back on that, good memories that I&aposll have for the rest of my life.&apos&apos Scott tees off tomorrow at 12.20pm with the Melbourne-based South Korean Jin Jeong and Richard Green. PGA CHAMPIONSHIP OF AUSTRALIA: A GUIDE Venue: RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast. Par 71. Recent winners: 2012 Daniel Popovic (Vic) 2011 Greg Chalmers (WA) 2010 Peter Senior (Qld) 2009 Robert Allenby (Vic) 2008 Geoff Ogilvy (Vic) 2007 Peter Lonard (NSW) 2006 Nick O&aposHern (WA) 2005 Robert Allenby (Vic) Leading contenders: Adam Scott: the world No. 2 is at home and in form and will be hard to beat if his putter is working. Marc Leishman: had a good year in America and will be anxious to win his first tier-one event at home. Peter Senior: keeps on keeping on as a contender on the senior tour in the US. Jin Jeong: Melbourne-based Korean who won in Perth recently and is in great form. Rickie Fowler: the American will draw some crowds with his long-hitting and his charisma. Tickets Through Ticketek or at the gate. Cost $25 daily, $40 weekend pass or $75 season pass. Discount concession tickets available and children under 16 free when accompanied by an adult. Further discounts for members of RACV, RACQ, NRMA, RAASA, RACWA, RACT, RANT and NZAA. Parking Shuttle bus from main car park or from Nerang station. Parking costs $10. Television: Channel 10, One HD, all four days.