Nick Cullen’s iron into the 18th green at Metropolitan found the front left bunker it seemed five and a playoff with Adam Scott and James Nitties was inevitable. The hole was cut in the far back right corner of the green making for one of those horrible long bunker shots where the fear is blading it all the way across the green. Most often players dump the club into the sand early and safely, finishing up with, at best, a semi-effective running duff pulling up four or five paces short of the hole. It’s safe, ugly and saves the ignominy of flying too far, making a six and losing what should have been won.
Adam Scott and James Nitties were in the clubhouse, finished in 280 and Cullen needed to somehow save an unlikely par from the sand. He did it with one of the best bunker shots ever hit on the final hole of a big Australian championship. There may have been a better one but I can’t think of it and he was left with a putt so short no amount of nerves could have made it anything other than a certainly.
Scott had been out on the first morning when the unusually early and hot north wind made it especially difficult and he looked to be struggling to do anything particularly well. The second day was better and the score much lower but still there were shots unexpected of the second best player in the world. A pitch from 100 yards away at the 16th, which found the right bunker, was particularly odd for one so good. Playing close to his best golf Scott would have won easily here but too many uncharacteristically poor irons earlier in the week left him, in the end, with a gap too far to bridge. He will though be better for the run and he will need to be in Sydney when Rory McIlroy comes to play The Australian Open.
As interesting as the players was the golf course and how it managed to hold up under the assault of the modern club and ball. Since the tournament left Huntingdale it has been played at Kingston Heath (twice), Victoria, Royal Melbourne and Metropolitan.
They are all short courses in this age – short by scorecard yardage and short to play because of fast running fairways and the time of the year big events are played. Every year members wonder if their course will ‘hold up’ as if someone shooting a low score will expose the course to ridicule. It’s crazy of course but each year we see the best courses in the city demanding players play precise, sensible golf and each year the fears of the members prove to be unfounded.
As a member at Metropolitan I have heard those I share the course with suggesting someone might shoot 59 and the winning score would be close to twenty under par. The course needs to be more difficult apparently.
The offerings come from those who don’t realize how hard it is to shoot 59 and don’t do the maths and figure out twenty under is a birdie every three or four holes – and no bogeys. Sometimes even the concern comes from members who barely make three or four birdies in a year.
These are first-class courses not to be conquered by power alone but it would be nice if those charged with controlling equipment could spare a thought for the intent of the original architects who thought par fives were things to be played with more than drivers and middle iron as was routinely the case at Metropolitan’s three front nine par fives.
The three local amateurs, Ryan Ruffels, Todd Sinnott and Lucas Herbert were terrific to watch and they all managed well the expectations and the pressure of playing a big event in their hometown and in Sinnott’s case his home course. Ruffels especially, who was out with Scott and Geoff Ogilvy in the opening rounds. Obviously he isn’t at their level yet but he was neither overawed nor out of place in the company of two of the best.