Date: November 11, 2011

O’Malley’s home support

By John Huggan, Editor-At-Large He’s never won his own national title of course. And, given the obvious quality of those around him on the leader board, he might not win this Australian Open either. But one thing is for sure, no one will benefit more from home support here at The Lakes than Peter O Malley, whose bogey-free second round of 66 was highlighted by as many as six birdies. His would be a poignant victory. At the age of 46, the lad from Bathurst has just retired from the European Tour after 23 distinguished years on the world s second biggest circuit. When I walked off the 18th green at Kingsbarns on the Saturday of the Dunhill Links Championship last month, I was a bit emotional, concedes O Malley, who is a member at The Lakes. Especially as I had just missed the cut by a shot. I was more upset about that, come to think of it. But the fact that my career in Europe is over hasn t really sunk in yet. One who will be closely watching O Malley s progress over the weekend is Tiger Woods. With good reason, of course. Pom and the 14-time major champion have a bit of a history. Back in 2002, O Malley then ranked the sixty-fourth best player on the planet knocked out the then number one in the opening round of the World Match Play Championship in California. I d been playing well before that event, recalls O Malley with a smile. I did well in the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne, finishing second behind Ernie Els. That was one of my very best ball-striking weeks. Two rounds stand out. I was pretty much landing the ball where I wanted to. That s so important at Royal Melbourne. And during those two rounds I had uphill putts on 32 of the 36 holes. So I went to La Costa feeling good about my game. I was number 64 and he was number one, so I had no expectations of winning. I d played with Tiger in New Zealand a few weeks before and had no pressure on me. That lack of pressure translated into a 2&1 victory in which, to quote one eyewitness, Tiger putted like Pom and Pom putted like Tiger! Tiger just had a bad day on the greens, says the ever-modest O Malley, whose almost metronomic ball striking has always outshone his work with the shortest club in his bag. But he was pretty relaxed about it all. Through 15 holes he hadn t made a birdie. And when I made one on the 15th I was three up. I was only two or three under par too. But a different Tiger walked to the 16th tee. I could see it in him. He smashed a huge drive and hit his approach to maybe 20 feet. The putt never looked like missing. I was lucky in that the 17th was a par-5 even he couldn’t reach. I hit driver-3-wood into the lay-up area about 100 yards short. He hit driver-5-iron! Then he hit a wedge to inside three feet. I hit to 20 feet and rolled it in to win. So that was nice. Of course, I played better golf the next day and lost to Nick Price! It was ever thus out on the links, of course. Golf has never been the most predictable of games. But whatever happens, an interesting, exciting and hopefully fruitful weekend beckons for both men.