If the tournament’s title is a little grand, it is nonetheless possible to argue that it is the most impressive of Keith Pellet’s much-vaunted European Tour innovations and slightly surprising that it has not spurned a brother edition.
The inaugural event witnessed a supreme performance from home favorite Brett Rumford who not only qualified as the number one seed from the 54-hole strokeplay section, but then swept his way imperiously through the short format matchplay brackets.
Twelve months ago Kiradech Aphibarnrat pulled off a remarkable win which could hardly have been a greater contrast to Rumford’s in nature. Rather than demolish the opposition from the outset, the Thai player instead qualified from every section and round more or less at the very last second (never mind minute). In all he played the 18th hole a flabbergasting 15 times throughout the week.
The initial three rounds are played over strokeplay with a 36-hole cut of 65 professionals and ties. So far, so normal. But on Saturday evening only the top 24 players will progress to Sunday’s matchplay. Incentive remains for those high up the leaderboard because the top eight gain a bye in the first round. A sudden death Saturday night play-off will hone the field down to 24 if there are ties. On Sunday five rounds of matchplay are played over six holes with tied matches decided over a Shootout hole – a shortened version of the final hole.
Lake Karrinyup CC is a popular venue, an often windy, undulating, tree-lined track that is well-bunkered and conforms to traditional concepts (it was designed by Alex Russell, a partner of Alister MacKenzie). It’s a par-72 playing to 7,143-yards which transforms into a fine short-form course: two short par-4s (10 and 14), one par-5 (11), a short par-3 (12) and two mid-distance par-4s (13 and 18). The running order is 10-11-13-14-12-18.
Past Top 4s
3. Adam Bland
Temperatures in the 80s all week but, slightly surprisingly for Perth, there is cloud predicted, mostly on Saturday. Almost no chance of rain however and the wind forecast is low (less than 10mph), but this is one city where it can pick up from nowhere (the common afternoon sea breeze is known as the Freemantle Doctor).
James Nitties (2018): "Considering I was a four-footer away from losing the first match, it was pretty positive stuff getting to the final. The weather's perfect, it's beach views every day most of the time. I love this tournament."
Danny Willett (2018): "It's a funky format. I watched it last year on TV and really thought it was good."
Brett Rumford (2017): "Golf is bigger than one person. If it's going to grow the game and provide a bit more thrill and excitement, then I think as a Tour we've done a great job."
Wade Ormsby (last week): “Disappointed for sure, but my game feels strong and I probably missed a chance to put everyone away early on. It’s not like I putted badly, just shaved a lot of edges. (Lake Karrinyup) is another course I really like.”
It’s intriguing that he’s playing in here this week and not the Genesis Open because two years ago he was a post-Ryder Cup potential superstar who finished second at Riviera. Within weeks he was T5 in the Mexico Championship and T4 in the Masters. The future was bright and yet there’s been only one top five since. Form? Six top 30s in a row without one top ten. Time to cast his mind back and stamp his class on this field.
The Englishman must be willing himself not to wake from the dream because the current state of his form must appear to be fantasy-like given the struggles which went before. He now has ten top tens in his last 15 starts on the Challenge and European Tours. He was third last time out, thrashing 66-62-65 after opening with a 71 to lie T82. Course form? 66 to open on debut in 2014, not broken 70 since (T63-MC-MC-MC).
Like Lewis, Scrivener is something of a machine at the moment. Unlike Lewis he lacks the wins, but he does have course form. Indeed he has six top 30s from his six visits and every single time he has found himself in the top ten at the end of at last one round. T3 in 2016, T4 in 2017, can he better that as he arrives fresh from T5 last week, his fourth finish of T7 or better in five starts?
On debut at the course in 2016 he missed the cut but since the format change has hasn’t failed to make the knockout stages. He was ninth in 2017 and last year a losing semi-finalist. His aggression and big-hitting seem a nice fit for the six match play holes. T7 in Dubai and T9 at halfway last week, but the wind hit him in round three and a 76 saw him miss the 54-hole cut.
Exactly like Herbert, Fox was blown away by the Saturday gusts at the Vic Open, dropping from T9 to a spare Sunday with a 76. He also pegged a neat result the start before (T6 in the Saudi International) and they’re both big hitters. The difference is that Fox hasn’t quite got to grips with the Lake Karrinyup test just yet. Which is not to say his record is poor. He’s 4-for-5 with a best of T9 in 2014.
The Thai golfer hit some form at the end of 2018 and he has ridden the wave into this year. Three top sixes came at the close of last year’s Asian Tour season, he opened 2019 with victory in the Singapore Open and was T27 last week in the Vic Open. His course form needs work. He missed the cut in 2016 and returned last year, lasting 24 hours longer this time, falling short of the 54-hole mark.
The South African caught fire last year and seems determined to throw the fuel at the flames. Six starts into this season he has five finishes of T14 or better and his final round record in the calendar year is interesting: 63 for T7 in Dubai, 63 for T11 in Saudi Arabia, 68 for T4 in the Vic Open. Make his course debut.
As the quote above indicates last week hurt. He played really well all week, could have been a long way clear, and only one late error cost him. Dos he bounce back or will frustration linger? He’s 6-for-6 at the course with two top ten finishes. The first was T9 in 2014 and then he was eighth in the first running of the six hole format in 2017.
This week’s preview seems to have a theme of repetition and Kennedy maintains it because, like Ormsby, he left the Vic Open ruing what might have been. In his case a blistering Sunday front nine was followed by costly failure to break par on the 72nd hole. He also has a touch of course form as a quarter-finalist in the match play rounds last year.
The Belgian missed four cuts in a row last July and August since when, with the exception of a withdrawal in the British Masters, he hasn’t failed to play four rounds (two events had no cut) in 14 starts. The best results of that spell came last week when he notched T8 in the Vic Open. Has made one previous visit to the course, when missing the cut in the 2016 Perth International.
Expect the Scots to be buzzing this week after the success in Melbourne of the very popular David Law. Johnston is only 2-for-7 this season but he did win the Challenge Tour’s Andalucia Match Play 9, a similar format to this week.
Like Johnston a Scot and like Johnston he thrived in that second tier shortened matchplay event, actually being defeated by his compatriot in the final. He is 4-for-7 with T7 in Mauritius and T22 last week. He also made the first knockout stage here last year.
Absolutely flew out the gates last week with that world record spell of nine birdies on the bounce, but then slumped to 74-75 and a miss of the 54-hole cut. However a fond return to Perth because he finished runner-up here 12 months ago.
Shot 63-63 on the weekend to land T4 in the Saudi International, flew to Panama, missed the cut, now back home to Perth where he was a quarter-finalist when still an amateur last year. “It’s a course I’ve played many time,” the Perth resident says but will he be jetlagged?
Quietly ticked off a T17 last week in the Vic Open and now heads to a course he has a 4-for-5 record at. More importantly all four cuts made reaped top 20s with a best of ninth last year.
Last week’s T17 was neat enough on first glance, especially as it shows progression (MC-T51-T17), but more importantly it was his best effort in 20 starts. Winner of the GolfSixes last May (different format but a minor boost to the confidence maybe).
Can the big Thai golfer emulate his close friend Kiradech Aphibarnrat? His form is bubbling (T41-T35-T5) with the latter effort coming in a decent field at the Singapore Open and his course record is similar (MC-T47-9).
The Frenchman got his 2019 season off to a smart start with an early T11 in Mauritius, had a setback with a missed cut in the South African Open, but has built since with T61 in Saudi Arabia and T8 in the Vic Open. A first course start.
As a former winner of the Vic Open he’ll have had high hopes last week, but a bright start (67) was wasted with a R2 74. Without expectations perhaps he can build on an improving recent course record that reads: MC-T62-T9. (He was also T3 in 2013.)
The South African is finding it difficult to rediscover his very best form, but he is at least heading in the right direction at this moment (MC-T55-T24). T3 in the South African Open late last year a reminder of the three-time ET winner’s quality.
He’s been T2 after 18 holes in both his last two starts, was T5 after 36 holes in Dubai and T2 after 54 holes last week. Can he maintain the pace for fours days this week?
The Spaniard ended the 2018 season on a wet sail (T3-T16-T4) in big money, good field events, but has labored in 2019. Has two matchplay wins and a touch of class in the field.
Somewhat surprisingly he has no course form whatsoever, but it would be foolish to not take a second glance at a man who has finished T6-T10 in his last two starts.
The Scot has been rejuvenated this season, ticking three early top fives including last week at the Vic Open. T4 and T15 on the course pre-matchplay format.
The young Aussie with no full ET card showed some class when T6 in the Australian PGA Championship and he made the knockout stages here last season (T17).
Paul Dunne might gain a boost from remembering the GolfSixes win, Moynihan might be more likely to since it was a huge week for him. T27 last week at 13th Beach.
The Englishman likes traditional golf challenge and playing in the trees so this week looks a neat fit. T12 last week, but can he make enough birdies? Likes a tough test.
Another Scot who may be on cloud nine. In his case we do know that when he’s on fire he can win (three at ET level). Also a past U.S. Amateur winner.
The Aussie has chalked up four top 30s from six course visits and has made the matchplay rounds every time in this format. T24 last week in the Vic Open.
Is he close? T9 in the Australian PGA Championship, a R3 65 in Dubai, a smart 66 to open last week. Or is the 77 in R2 last week the better guide? His best golf would be a good fit for the course and format.
1. Ryan Fox
3. Tom Lewis
9. Wade Ormsby
10. David Drysdale
11. Brad Kennedy
12. Paul Dunne
13. Min Woo Lee
14. Thomas Aiken
16. Andrew Johnston
17. Clement Sordet
18. Jorge Campillo
19. Callum Shinkwin
20. Richie Ramsay
Look out for Tuesday’s Expert Picks column with advice from myself and Dave Tindall on selections for DraftKings and the European Tour Fantasy Game.