First played in 1904, and now co-sanctioned with the OneAsia Tour, the Australian Open is the oldest event on the PGA Tour of Australia and this will be the 100th edition. It’s also one of the most prestigious tournaments in world golf – four of the last six winners are major champions and the roll call of winners is like a who’s who of golf…
The likes of Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Locke have all won the Australian Open and some absolute legends of the game have won the tournament on more than one occasion. Peter Thomson was victorious three times (1951, 1967 and 1972) and Greg Norman won the event five times in the 1980s and 90s. Jack Nicklaus was successful six times between 1964 and 1978 but he couldn’t quite beat Gary Player’s record. The South African lifted the famous Stonehaven Cup on seven occasions between 1958 and 1974.
The Australian Golf Club, Rosebery, Sydney
Par 71, 6,591 metres
Stroke Average in 2014 – 73.453
Formed in 1882, one year before Royal Melbourne, the Australian is the oldest golf club in Australia and the members still play for the oldest trophy in Australia – the Cadogan Cup – which was presented to the club by Englishman, C.H Cadogan, in 1894.
The Australian hosted the inaugural event and no venue has hosted the tournament on more occasions. This will be the 19th time the Australian Open will be played here.
Little is known about the very first course layout in 1882, not even the number of holes! And many subsequent changes were made. In 1977, Jack Nicklaus altered the course to make it more difficult and he returned to make more changes prior to last year’s renewal. The greens were restored to Bent grass, having been infested with Poa annua. Vegetation that had encroached was removed and trees were planted but for more on the renovation, please see this link HERE.
It’s a really tough test and only the par five 14th and 18th holes averaged a below par score 12 months ago.
All four days live on Seven, starting 12pm Thursday
Last Six Australian Open Winners
2014 – Jordan Spieth
2013 – Rory McIlroy
2012 – Peter Senior
2011 – Greg Chalmers
2010 – Geoff Ogilvy
2009 – Adam Scott
Last Three Winners at the Australian Golf Club
2014 – Jordan Spieth -8
2007 – Craig Parry -11
2004 – Peter Lonard -3
What Will it Take to Win The Australian Open?
The Australian is a very difficult world-class championship venue that demands accuracy, both off the tee and from the fairway.
Trouble awaits those that stray from the tree-lined fairways and it’s no cakewalk after a straight drive either. The diagonally laid out greens are not easy to find from the undulating fairways, especially given that the players often encounter very tricky cross winds. Accuracy will win over power but patience, an ability to play in the wind, and a very high level of concentration are all also essential prerequisites.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
It’s no surprise given how fabulously hard the course is, that all the winners at this venue have been top-quality players. Jack Nicklaus’ final three of six tournament successes came here, Greg Norman won his fifth Australian Open at this venue and last year’s winner, Jordan Spieth, is the current world number one.
Since Nicklaus reworked the course in 1977, in addition to the three major winner winners mentioned above, David Graham, Bob Shearer, John Morse, Peter Lonard and Craig Parry have all won the title at this famous venue and all four also won on the PGA Tour.
Even if we disregard the venue, this event nearly always sees the cream rise to the top. With the exception of the 2002 event, won by Stephen Allan, and possibly the 2012 edition, won by Peter Senior, every edition this century, has been won by a very obvious candidate.
When current world number one, Jordan Spieth, looks back on his career, many years from now, he’ll look back at last year’s victory here as one of the biggest. Speaking after he’d shot a course record 63 to win by six, Spieth spoke of his relief at ending what was developing into a barren spell…
He’d burst onto the scene in the States with a playoff victory at the John Deere Classic in July 2013 but getting his second career victory was starting to prove elusive. He was beaten by Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship the following month and he was runner-up at the Tour Championship to Henrik Stenson in the September. When he returned to the fray in 2014, he finished second to Zach Johnson at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and Bubba Watson then edged him out at Augusta in The Masters. Only one top-five finish followed that effort in April on the PGA Tour and when he demolished the field here, the relief was tangible.
One week after winning this he won Tiger Woods’ tournament – the Hero Challenge – by ten strokes in hack canter and he’s never looked back. He’s finished inside the top-four in all four majors, winning two, added three other PGA Tour events, including the Tour Championship and he’s climbed to the top of the world rankings. He’s by some distance the best player in the field this week and he’s quite rightly a very firm favourite to defend the title.
Adam Scott is the man the market considers most likely to trouble Jordan and that’s perfectly understandable. The world number 12 won this event in 2009 and he was fifth last year but he’s going to have to lift himself after last week’s disappointment at Huntingdale, where he lost his way badly after a bright start before eventually finishing fifth behind Peter Senior, and he’s going to have to putt consistently well. And that’s something that can’t be relied upon to happen as he works through the transition from long to short putter.
Scott often performed poorly in his homeland in the early part of his career but he’s a very consistent performer here now. He’s finished inside the top-five in 11 of his last 12 starts in Australia and it’s almost impossible to think he won’t contend but we have to go back to the 2013 Masters for his last victory and he’s failed to win in each of his last six starts.
Having won the Tour Championship on his penultimate start and having finished a respectable seventh last time out in the WGC – HSBC Championship in China, on a course that favours the really big hitters, Jordan Spieth heads to the Australian in fine fettle. He’s reportedly spent the last week playing some classic sandbelt tracks to prepare and I think he’ll take all the beating.
Nicklaus and Norman won back-to-back Australian Opens and already this century we’ve seen both Aaron Baddeley and Peter Lonard achieve the feat. I don’t like backing short-priced favourites but I can’t see any reason why Jordon can’t double-up this week and odds around the 2/1 mark are perfectly fair.
Although a shadow of his former self, the once top-class Stuart Appleby did show signs of life on the PGA Tour last week at the RSM Classic. In three visits to the Australian, at the 1998 Greg Norman International, and in this event in 2004 and 2007, he’s never finished outside the top-five and he could be one for a small play in the top-ten market.
Given he has the sort of neat and tidy game ideally suited to the venue, John Senden may prove popular in the top-ten markets after his tied 2nd at the Australian Masters last week but his course form is poor and he might be one to take on. I’d suggest laying Senden in the top ten market as the price will be considerably shorter and he’s never made the top ten here.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter