By Mike Clayton A national open championship is cause for a celebration of the local game and the Australian Open has always been an event home players have prized about all but the four major championships. During the sixties and seventies it was dominated by the big three of golf, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer and for another decade by Greg Norman. Norman himself was inspired by the great Nicklaus and in this year s MFS Australian Open the field will most likely be dominated by a group of players who grew up watching Norman triumph all over the country. This year at Royal Sydney Norman returns to the championship after some years away and despite being even less than a part time player, he is sure to be one to attract the fascination of the crowds. Fathers who grew up watching him can bring along their children to see him play because in generations to come many will ask the question, did you ever see Greg Norman play golf ? Those who missed out truly will have missed one of the most dramatic players ever to wrap his fingers around a club. As a small boy my father took me to watch Peter Thomson at Metropolitan and he simply told me that he is the best player here. And I am forever grateful for seeing him at his best even if I had very little idea of what I was watching. Norman won t be the best player at Royal Sydney but the fight to prove who is will perhaps be the most fascinating Australian golf has seen in years. Adam Scott is our most elegant player and he just won the US PGA Tour Championship and Geoff Ogilvy is the US Open champion. Whilst they are great mates you can bet Scott wishes it was him who had the major championship by his name and a win in Sydney would be a long overdue first Australian triumph for Scott. Ogilvy has played very little since Winged Foot but he has become a father for the first time and he played better than just good golf at both the British Open and the American PGA Championship. He will be the favourite but unless you are Tiger Woods, being the favourite in a golf tournament means very little. Half a generation ahead of Ogilvy and Scott are the duo of Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby who have three wins and plenty of near misses in the Open. Allenby is defending his win at Moonah Links where he opened with an extraordinary 63 and closed with a 77 which was not as bad a round as the score might suggest. Moonah was brutally difficult last year and there will be a few happy with some respite at Royal Sydney. The winner last time around Royal Sydney was Aaron Baddeley who was a phenomenally gifted nineteen year old amateur at the time. Norman, Nick O Hern and Colin Montgomerie all failed to run down the kid and he won again the following year at Kingston Heath. Since, he has had his issues with crooked hitting but he won at Hilton Head earlier in the year and he is working with a couple of Florida teachers who are disciples of the mysterious and legendary Mac O Grady. O Grady has forgotten more about the golf swing than most will even know and in the late eighties he saved the careers of a number of floundering players. He won a couple of times himself on the tour and hand a real chance to win the 1987 US Open. Of interest to those watching on television would be a comparison of Baddeley s swing of 1999 to the one he will bring home this summer. The country has never had a finer group of players and those worth following are the young ones who are going to play some wonderful golf over the next few years, Nathan Green has been a revelation in his first America season as has Michael Sim as he has played his way onto the main tour next season. Sim is a beautiful looking player worth more than a passing glance and don t be surprised if he scares a few before the end of the week.
Author: Mike Clayton