Date: November 11, 2016
Author: Roy Fleming

Stonecutters to finally show its teeth

The real Stonecutters will be on show tomorrow when a course which has so meekly surrendered birdie after birdie will finally have the type of protection some professional and amateurs golfers seriously dislike: rain and wind.

Forecasts are for up to 20mm of rain here in Sydney’s western heartland tomorrow, accompanied by a stiff nor-wester. If fans are worried the birdie barrage is generating a reputation of the course being, too easy, rest easy – tomorrow should be a different story.

Today, it was much of the same as Thursday. Adam Blyth took the lead with a nine-under par round to basically match his seven-under opening round in tougher conditions. Blyth’s girlfriend, Nicole Kelsey, is carrying his bag and whilst they spend much of the time talking about “home stuff” it’s clearly working. Blyth’s dad, who plans to caddie tomorrow, might have difficulty convincing Kelsey to hand over the reins, especially with a four-shot lead heading into tomorrow.

Elsewhere, youthful exuberance eventually caught up with Brett Coletta. The overnight leader started where he left off after yesterday’s 10-under stunner, with two birdies in his first eight holes to be at -12. But when his wedge caught the front edge of the ninth green and skipped into a gully, his short-game showed its first vulnerabilities.  The next shot, a skulled chip into a bunker for a double bogey. All the good work on the front nine undone. Perhaps though, this is the reality check he needed to be a contender this weekend. He’s still the leading amateur and will play in the final few groups.

As is usual for an Australian summer, there’s names we all know. Peter Fowler is at -9 along with 2013 champion Aron Price who is now in a position to fight for another. Jason Scrivener is within striking distance at -9, and the rest includes a who’s who of Australian golf: Stephen Leaney (-8), Michael Sim (-89), Peter Lonard (-7), Nick O’Hern -6), Robert Allenby (-6) and Peter O’Malley (-5).

Then there’s Rory Bourke, who backed up his opening 63 with a solid 69 to be two back and outright second, with Benjamin Clementson, Rhein Gibson, Matthew Millar and Peter Wilson all at -11. There’s a host of players at -10, and the cut is expected to be somewhere around -3.

Blyth took advantage of the morning’s gentle conditions with a run of four birdies in his final four hours to finish with a blemish-free 63 and the outright lead at -16.

It continues a run of good form for the Queenslander, who won the South Pacific Open Championships in Noumea in September. Asked which of his opening rounds he liked better, his seven-under round yesterday in more challenging conditions, or his sublime -9 this morning, he admitted he couldn’t separate them.

“They were both very similar,” Blyth said. “Yesterday afternoon was maybe a shot harder with the breeze, but today I’ve played very strategic, especially on the par fives. It was really solid golf.”

In the battle of the amateurs Kevin Yuan shot a six-under round to be at -8 and just two behind Coletta, but at least 10 amateurs are expected to make the cut and the trophy is anyone’s at this stage. 

One of the event’s major draw cards, Canadian Jamie Sadlowski (-3) was left to rue a poorly played fourth hole yesterday, which effectively ended his chances of being present int his weekend’s field. He miscued his driver a couple of times trying to drive the short par-4 fourth, resulting in a five-over nine for the hole. 

“I also had a couple of silly doubles,” he said later. “But there were a lot of positives, 14 birdies and an eagle. You would hope after you sign the card at the end of the two days you would be a little better than three-under,” he said.

“You look at it yesterday, four over. And then you look at today and it’s 66. I didn’t play any better today than I did yesterday. It’s just that one big blemish. Hopefully I can take some momentum next week into the (Australian) Open.”


1: The course is drying out, and that’s good. Australian Golf editor Steve Keipert mentioned yesterday that Stonecutters needed more sun to really show its beauty. He should know, it’s his home track. What we saw today was a slight increase in green speed and a bit more roll on the fairways. Hopefully the course will hang in there if it does indeed rain tomorrow.

2: Your mental state can often reflect the quality of your golf. Rarely do we see angry golfers shooting the lights out. So we put forth Adam Blyth as the example. Throughout the first two days, no golfer has seem more relaxed, at ease, and – dare we say it – HAPPY. Perhaps the secret weapon is, of course, having your girlfriend working as your caddy.

3: Short back swings. This is a personal observation, but I’m gobsmacked at the number of abbreviated back swings in professional golf. The control is next level and something every club golfer could learn from. Other observations include how few golfers swing 100 per cent, and how much longer they spend over putts than they do in the tee box. Putting is everything, so they take much longer the execute that part of the game.