Australia’s biggest summer of golf ever?
The biggest fortnight ever in the history of Australian Golf.
That’s how Australia’s leading golfers view this year’s Australian Open and Presidents Cup double.
Many of the world’s leading stars headed by former long-time world No. 1 Tiger Woods and exciting compatriots, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson will be in Sydney from November 10 to 13 for the Australian Open at the Lakes.
Double major-winning John Daly will again contest the Australian Open.
South African and last year’s British Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen will be playing in Sydney, and surprisingly also in Australia for a first time in his career.
USA Team Captain, Fred Couples will also compete and no doubt be paired with International Team Captain, Greg Norman.
Norman’s a winner of five Australian Open’s and will be joined by fellow Stonehaven Trophy champions, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley and John Senden.
In fact, Norman indicated he will not only contest the Australian Open but will also compete in the Australian PGA Championship the week following the Presidents Cup.
“The two weeks are going to be huge, and especially the Australian Open in the lead-up to the Presidents Cup,” Norman told Golfer Pacific in an exclusive interview.
“And from talking with Freddie (Couples) I also hear that some of the Americans might just stay and play the Australian PGA.”
“But Australia needs to take advantage of this and get the enthusiasm back into golf, given what Adam (Scott) and Jason Day have been doing this year.”
“From the exposure standpoint, seeing the Australian flag on worldwide television is fantastic.”
“I know the New South Wales Government is involved with promotion of the Australian Open and the Queensland Government with the Australian PGA, and I’m sure the Australian PGA is doing its utmost.”
And Norman revealed he is back hitting balls after further surgery.
“I started back again about a week before the PGA Championship, hitting 7-iron up to 5-iron, but it’s just a process of building up myself and my golf swing,” he said.
Not since the 1988 World Cup or the previous Presidents Cup a decade later in 1998, has there been such excitement ahead of a tournament in Australia.
Scott will headline the Australians competing in Sydney given his stunning four-shot success in the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational.
The Queenslander revealed he has reluctantly turned downed defending his Barclays Singapore Open title to tee up at The Lakes.
It would seem the only notable player not competing in Sydney is four-time Major-winning Phil Mickelson, who is sponsored by Barclays and as such, is contracted to compete in Singapore in the same week at the Australian Open.
Also missing will be 2010 PGA leading money earner, Matt Kuchar who, despite spending his honeymoon on Lizard Island, is taking his wife and two young sons on a trip to New Zealand ahead of the Presidents Cup.
As well, Steve Stricker indicated he will arrive in Australia on the weekend before the Presidents Cup but will not be competing in Sydney. The last time Stricker was in Australia was a decade ago when he captured the WGC – Accenture Match-Play Championship at the Metropolitan Club.
It’s some 15 years ago since Woods competed in Sydney and that was in late 1996, and just weeks after he turned professional.
Organisers are believed to have paid just $250,000 for Woods to compete at The Australian Club when the rookie pro contested the final round alongside West Australian Terry Pilkadaris.
Woods finished a credible fourth behind Norman who retained the title, and in what was also Norman’s last Australian Open triumph.
“We must be looking at the best two weeks in Australian golf, and it must be with Tiger playing plus Dustin and Bubba, along with Freddie and Greg,” said Scott.
“Finally, we’ve got something to sing about and it’s important Golf Australia and other bodies take advantage of this week, and somehow embrace all that will be good about having the two events back-to-back.”
“We particularly need to ensure the Americans have such a good time that they will want to come back the following years even though there will not be a Presidents Cup.”
“And with what we have to offer in Australia from a tourism and golfing point of view, we should be able to achieve that whether it be government or corporate sponsors putting money into golf in Australia as we need to grow the game again.”
“The fact that Tiger is playing in Sydney for a first time in 15 years is going to be huge.
“It’s commonly known Melbourne boasts the best sport fans, and that they will go out and watch a couple of cockroaches crawling up a wall.”
“So to have Tiger competing in Sydney will be fun for everyone, and then with everything that is going to happen the next week in Melbourne will be a great two weeks for Australian golf.”
“I’m just so happy to be a part of it.”
Scott said he has spoken with Barclays Singapore Open officials, indicating the situation he faces with the Australian Open being purposely moved to the week before the Presidents Cup.
“Not only was I due to defend in Singapore but I have won there twice before, so it’s a tournament that has been really rewarding for me,” he said.
“I was put in a tricky situation of playing either in Singapore or in Sydney. I wanted to play in Singapore as it’s important to me as I have charity foundation based in Singapore, and I’m not going to be there this year.”
“So it was a tough decision but the Australian Open is going to be good preparation for the Presidents Cup and it will be a little easier travel-wise.”
“I’m very excited about playing in the Australian Open, and if I was to win the Stonehaven Cup again that would be amazing. I know Greg (Norman) will be pleased I am playing in Sydney rather than Singapore, and it’s very unfortunate it’s on the same week.
“I know will get lots of chances to go back and play in Singapore because I really love it up there.”
Scott also confirmed he will remain in Australia after the Presidents Cup and contest the following week’s Australian PGA Championship where he will join reigning British Open winner, Darren Clarke in the Coolum field.
However Scott will be skipping the Australian Masters being staged the week prior to Christmas at the Victoria Club in Melbourne.
“It’s very late in the year and it’s at a time when most of us want to shut down, and for that reason I feel very unfortunate for the Australian Masters,” he said.
“The event has grown so much in the past couple of years, and helped also by Tiger winning the tournament in 2009 but they’re now in a tough situation.”
“My only hope is that something can be worked out and there’s a better schedule scenario moving forward so that we don’t get these awkward situations of having to play the week before Christmas.”