Date: November 15, 2013
Author: Mike Clayton / Royal Melbourne Golf Club

The uncommon pleasure of Royal Melbourne

Whether you are playing or watching golf at Royal Melbourne it is an uncommon pleasure. Adam Scott – the elegant one – was out in the morning and in with 67 but for me the interest was in the afternoon when Geoff Ogilvy was playing with Jarrod Lyle and Zimbabwean Brendan de Jonge. Lyle was the story of the day as he played his first tournament round since finishing third at the Los Angeles Open in February of last year. Since he has endured his second battle with leukemia. Lyle had battled away in the United States for a few years, going back and forth from the Nationwide (as it was then) Tour and the PGA Tour. That high finish in Los Angeles was the performance that finally showed both him and his supporters that he had a game capable of succeeding in America. Almost unbelievably it was within a fortnight that he was diagnosed with the very same disease he had endured as a teenager. He began with the most perfect three wood into the long second hole and his swing looked to be in fine order. He dropped shots at the three difficult holes that come at the end of the front nine of this version of the Composite Course but his final six holes were terrific. A short iron dropped close at the par three 14th and that birdie was followed by another long wood that found the middle of the green at the par five, 15th. Finishing up he played a perfect drive into the corner of the dogleg left and followed that with a beautifully flighted middle iron into the middle of the green. 72 was a far from the Nick Cullen s leading 65 but Lyle s aim of making the half-way cut is well within his reach. Presidents Cup man de Jonge swings with a pronounced move to the inside on the backswing and then brings the club back out, and right onto the plane, as he comes down. It is exactly the same method employed by Craig Parry, Craig Stadler, Bruce Leitzke, and before them Bobby Jones and Sam Snead. It is a tremendously safe way to play because it all but eliminates the hook and all day de Jonge played a ripping fade around Royal Melbourne. Extraordinarily, he had never seen the course yet he navigated its greens and strategies like one who had played it all his life. Perhaps his only mistake came at the uphill par three, 5th with the pin tucked just over the front bunker. Royal Melbourne experts know never to fly at that flag because there is almost no room between the front bunker and the cup. It’s better always to play either long or left but the Zimbabwe man flew straight at the flag and finished only a few feet from the cup. Perhaps it was a case of a man being better off not quite knowing how difficult was the shot. He finished in 68, no doubt the best score ever shot by one who had never seen the course. Ogilvy has just experienced his poorest season in America. He began the year just one place out of the top fifty players in the world but that one place on the rankings cost him a game at Augusta in April. He tried frantically to play his way in at the early season events but fell short and from the end of the northern spring until now he has had a miserable time of it. His hitting from tee to green was a good as ever. He missed only four greens, one with a miserable shot into de Jonge s par three where, after a beautiful short pitch, he missed from four feet up the hill. He saved four from the sand after his long iron missed the green at the 7th but a drive caught the corner bunker at the 9th and most from there do as he did and make five. Annoyingly though it came after another missed putt from inside a couple of paces and three holes later he three putted across the green at the uphill par four 12th. 71 is never a poor round at Royal Melbourne but as the former US Open champion said it was another round where I had three more than I should have . Adam Scott, though is again the man to beat on a course clearly suited to his game but so was Royal Pines last week and comparing the two courses is like comparing a diamond with cut glass. The weather will improve presumably as there is much golf worth observing at Royal Melbourne this week. And, no matter how bright Scott s star is shining the course is the real star this week. Design perfection is extraordinarily rare but one of the most perfect pieces of golf course architecture lies in the heart of Melbourne s south-eastern suburbs.