Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Australian PGA Preview

Monday, November 27, 2017


For the second year running, the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort is part of the early-season European Tour schedule.

 

And for the second year running, it’s one of two offerings on the Euro Tour this week, with Race to Dubai points also being contested in Africa at the Mauritius Open (see Matt Cooper preview).

 

American Harold Varner III, then the World No.184, was the semi-surprise winner 12 months ago as he edged out a quartet of local Aussies. The word ‘semi’ is appropriate as Varner III had finished runner-up the year before.

 

His win made him the first American to capture the Aussie PGA since Hale Irwin in 1978 and the fifth from the United States to win a European Tour event played on Australian soil.

 

If you’re in quiz mode, look away now and get thinking. If you’re impatient or back from you 10 minutes of trying not to google, the answers are: Steve Stricker (2001 WGC-Accenture Match Play), Kevin Stadler (2006 Johnnie Walker Classic), Tiger Woods (2009 JBWere Masters), Bo Van Pelt (2012 Perth International).

 

Hats off if you got all or most of those.

 

The field this year is given a big extra dose of sheen by the presence of Sergio Garcia.

 

 

The Course

 

That incredible contrast in scores (-19 won it in 2016, Even par the year before) shows just what a difference the wind can make at RACV Royal Pines Resort. Also making it tricky to get a handle on past course form is that Graham Marsh’s original creation underwent a huge renovation after the 2014 event. Tight, with trees and water hazards, it’s a 7,364-yard par 72 (the locals will say 6,734 metres) with four par 5s (3, 9, 12 and 15). Scrambling has been particularly important in both 2015 and 2016 and the run-off areas around the greens require plenty of sharpness with chip-and-runs.

 

 

Past tournaments at Royal Pines

 

2016

-19 Harold Varner III (United States) (DD: 11 DA: 35 GIR: 8 Scr: 9 PA: 1 AA: 1)

-17 Andrew Dodt (Australia) (DD: 45 DA: 4 GIR: 4 Scr: 6 PA: 5 AA: 1)

-15 Adam Scott (Australia) (DD: 11 DA: 35 GIR: 1 Scr: 61 PA: 41 AA: 13)

-14 Ashley Hall (Australia) (DD: 35 DA: 58 GIR: 8 Scr: 4 PA: 8 AA: 5)

-10 Brett Rumford (Australia) (DD: 63 DA: 68 GIR: 57 Scr: 1 PA: 22 AA: 47)

 

2015

Evs Nathan Holman (Australia) (DD: 8 DA: 44 GIR: 14 Scr: 51 PA: 3 AA: 5) – won at the 1st extra hole

Evs Dylan Frittelli (South Africa) (DD: 42 DA: 5 GIR: 3 Scr: 6 PA: 57 AA: 3)

Evs Harold Varner III (United States) (DD: 45 DA: 44 GIR: 46 Scr: 4 PA: 34 AA: 38)

+1 Zander Lombard (South Africa) (DD: 26 DA: 48 GIR: 41 Scr: 11 PA: 9 AA: 13)

+2 Cameron Smith (Australia) (DD: 41 DA: 41 GIR: 22 Scr: 2 PA: 7 AA: 3)

 

2014

-11 Greg Chalmers (Australia) – won at 7th extra hole

-11 Adam Scott (Australia)

-11 Wade Ormsby (Australia)

-9 Michael Hendry (New Zealand)

-8 Scott Stallings (United States)

 

2013

-18 Adam Scott (Australia)

-14 Rickie Fowler (United States)

-12 Jack Wilson (Australia)

-11 Cameron Percy (Australia)

-10 Michael Wright (Australia)

 

 

The Weather

 

So what’s the forecast on Surfer’s Paradise (a name that tells you winds are the norm here), a resort city on Queensland’s Gold Coast? Temperatures are pleasant enough (early 80s) but there’s due to be rain in the build-up and also chances of t-storms on the first two days and more wet stuff on the weekend. There’s winds to contend with too but nothing too dramatic. The softened course should lead to some low scoring.

 

 

The Top 10 contenders

 

Marc Leishman

Despite the presence of Scott and Garcia, the bookmakers have Leishman as favorite to come out on top. That’s a huge thumbs up for the Aussie and with a win (BMW Championship), a second (CJ Cup) and a third (Dell Technologies) in his last five worldwide starts it’s easy to justify it although I’m still rather surprised. Leishman has a pair of T11s (2013 and 2014) along with T21 (2016) in his three Aussie PGA Championships at Royal Pines. What you won’t find when sifting through his record of co-sanctioned events in Australia is a win.

 

Adam Scott

Unlike Leishman, Scott has racked up four wins on home soil and his record in recent times is phenomenal. Taking into account the Aussie Masters, Open and PGA, he’s delivered 13 top fives in his last 15 appearances, two of those wins and four second places. At Royal Pines he has a win (2013), a second and a third in three tries, perhaps no surprise given that the course is in his home state of Queensland. The worry? Recent worldwide form which shows one top 20 in eight starts. The last time we saw him, he could only manage T50 in the WGC-HSBC in China.

 

Sergio Garcia

The Masters champ has played in Australia just once since 2003, finishing T28 in the JBWere Masters in 2010. However, he did enjoy his early visits and in five starts from 2000 to 2002 he banked a trio of top three finishes. That makes sense given that Aussie courses are usually hard, fast and bouncy, conditions that Sergio loves although the forecast rain may deny him that this week. He should be tournament-sharp having been a near-miss T4 at the DP World Tour Championship and T19 in the Hong Kong Open although he’s still coming to terms with his new equipment and he was definitely not at his best in Fanling last week.

 

Cameron Smith

To show how good Smith’s playing right now, some UK bookmakers have him at shorter odds than Adam Scott. That’s almost unthinkable given Scott’s superstar status and record in Australia. Still, Smith is the form horse and after top fives in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic and CJ Cup, he added T4 in last week’s Australian Open, shooting all four rounds in the 60s. He’s a stud on home turf too with three top fives in his last four starts while his course form at Royal Pines is 15-5-9-35.

 

Matt Jones

Jones finished like a train to end just one stroke back in defense of his Australian Open crown last week but at least that T2 was enough to secure him a place in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie (note though that he has a baby due around that time so may not travel). He hasn’t returned home to play this event since MC in 2010 so hasn’t contested an Aussie PGA at Royal Pines yet. On last week’s form though, he has to be considered a viable title contender.

 

Harold Varner III

The good news for Varner is that he’s seen the course play both easy and hard and thrived in both conditions. Runner-up with Even par (lost a play-off in 2015), he shot bookend 65s to win with 19-under last year. He’s been adding extra stamps to his passport in the build-up to his defense with T19 in Japan’s Dunlop Phoenix and T41 (R4 67) in last week’s Hong Kong Open and six finishes of T26 or better in his last 11 worldwide starts are pretty decent numbers. Excellent GIR figures of late.

 

Jonas Blixt

The Swede is wildly inconsistent but at his best he’s very dangerous. Evidence? Three PGA Tour wins (the most recent in the pairs format at this year’s Zurich Classic alongside one of his main rivals this week, Cameron Smith), T2 in the 2014 Masters and solo fourth in the 2013 PGA Championship. We’ve seen a lot of ‘bad Jonas’ in recent months but ‘good Jonas’ popped up again to finish runner-up in last week’s Australian Open. He could do anything this week but a course that rewards a sharp short game (often is strength) should suit.

 

Wade Ormsby

Winner winner, chicken dinner. At last, Ormsby can claim that after finally getting it done at the 264th time of asking by capturing last week’s Hong Kong Open. He’ll now be looking for a triumphant return home and there’s a decent chance he could make one. The Aussie was fifth at Valderrama before his Hong Kong win and he’s also a former runner-up (2014) at this week’s venue, Royal Pines. Overall he has five top 15s in his last 10 co-sanctioned events on home turf.

 

Brett Rumford

Another of the local stars and always one to take a close look at when the European Tour heads to his homeland. Rumford won the World Super 6 Perth (new Euro Tour tournament) in Western Australia earlier this year and since the start of 2013 he’s been outside the top 20 just twice in 15 starts in events played in Australia, most of those co-sanctioned. He added to that record with T12 in last week’s Australian Open.

 

Kramer Hickok

The 2017 Player of the Year on the Canadian Mackenzie Tour is perhaps better known for being a housemate of Jordan Spieth’s. He joined his good buddy in last week’s Australian Open (Spieth T8) and was a decent T24th after a pair of 71s on the weekend. He also finished T6 in the previous week’s New South Wales Open so, now fully acclimatised, a third week on Australian soil could reap his biggest rewards yet. Ended his Canadian Tour campaign with a win and two seconds in his final four starts.


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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