Date: November 22, 2006
Author: Ben Wise

Senden can double up

By Ben Wise, Sportal The MasterCard Masters at Huntingdale has a slightly different feel in 2006, with the event&aposs recent co-sanctioning with the European Tour enticing some of the best international players in the world to pit their skills against Australasia&aposs finest. Victorian Robert Allenby is back to defend his gold jacket, and enters the tournament with some momentum on the back of his closing 67 at the Australian Open last week which jumped him into a tie for 21st at tournament end. “I made a few changes on Sunday morning (last week) and got some really good rhythm and routine going. I feel much better about my game (and) I am looking forward to a good week here,” Allenby said. But Allenby faces the massive task of beating a field that includes recently-crowned Australian Open champion John Senden, dual 2006 US PGA Tour event-winner Stuart Appleby (eighth on US money list with US$3.47 million), 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell and Aaron Baddeley – who recorded his first US Tour win earlier in the year. Other than a strong Australasian challenge, the star-studded field also includes English world No.15 Paul Casey – a triple winner on the European Tour this year where he finished second on the money list – and his compatriot Justin Rose. Rose arrives at Huntingdale having won more than US$1.6 million on the US Tour, good enough for the South African-born pro to secure 47th position on the world&aposs most demanding stage. Ryder Cup star Casey is looking forward to the challenge of playing on a course that throws up a variety of challenges. “I love playing down here. Shot-making is at a premium, ball control is a must and you have to use your imagination,” he said. “You don&apost have to grow rough, trick golf courses up with unnatural hazards to make it tough. This is pure golf.” However, with Huntingdale again likely to be subjected to a variety of different weather conditions during the four days of the tournament, players in the field with good records at the event, as well as current form, will most likely litter Sunday&aposs final leaderboard. Former champions looking to add another gold jacket to their wardrobes other than Allenby include 2004 winner Richard Green (10th in Australian Open) and solid ball-striker Peter Lonard, who prevailed in 1997 and 2002. Senden should be clear top-pick though to claim his second tournament in a row. Having closed with sensational rounds of 67-65 to salute at Royal Sydney last week, the Queenslander is primed to improve on his fourth-placing at Huntingdale from last year. The John Deere Classic (US Tour event) winner seems to slip under the radar when he returns home to play, with Australian drawcards Allenby, Appleby and Baddeley commanding the majority of the media&aposs attention. But Senden&aposs ability to find greens in regulation – he was third on the US Tour behind only Tiger Woods and Jeff Gove in this statistical category in 2006 – will hold him in good stead at Huntingdale, where greenside undulations and bunkers make getting up and down difficult. Senden&aposs ball-striking is so good that US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy rates him among the best in that facet of the game in the world, and anyone who saw his shots to the 17th and 18th greens on Sunday would have trouble disagreeing. Other players to watch this week include leftie Nick O&aposHern, Nathan Green – who led for most of last week&aposs Australian Open and finished 41st on the US money list – plucky New South Welshman Gavin Coles and Wade Ormsby – who recently gained his European Tour card.