That which makes the New South Wales Golf Club such a great golf course is that which makes it so vulnerable, namely its proximity to the ocean and the elements that come with such a location.
In the opening two days of this week's Australian Open, the layout displayed both sides of its character. From the magnificence of day one's early morning conditions to the point where early on day two it became necessary to suspend play for 5Ã‚Â½ hours the golf course, this was our great game at its best and worst.
It is indeed a shame that such a great golf course has been subject to such scrutiny in its very first staging of the Australia's national championship but to a large extent there is little blame to be attached anywhere. The most controversial hole and the one which caused most damage on day two on day two, the 13th, had a hole cut in the middle left of the green but on closer inspection there was virtually no other flag position which would have provided a better option.
The strong and blustery southerly wind kicked in earlier and much stronger than had been forecast making almost any pin position on that green and on one or two others almost impossible to set, never mind play. As a consequence of that hole and the increasing wind making several others marginal, play was called at 8.30am, just 80 minutes after it had commenced on day two.
The one criticism that appeared constant with players was that the AGU and or the PGA Tour had not allowed, in their green speed set up, for the sort of wind that blew on day two. Admittedly it was stronger than forecast but both Stuart Appleby and Greg Chalmers were amongst those who felt the green speed should have been at least a foot slower than they were running at.
By the time the players returned to the golf course at 2.00pm the wind had calmed but not significantly. In the exposed areas of the course it was still blowing extremely hard but the course was now playable and as the wind turned a little to the south east it began to subside further.
Chalmers later added that compared to some of the stories he heard from players during the break and the clubs they were using on certain holes, which he had yet to face when play was called, the wind was perhaps two clubs different after play resumed.
Stuart Appleby took up where he left off. Through just four holes of round two before the enforced break, Appleby returned to the course and when he holed a 25 foot eagle putt at the 9th (the course's 18th) he had made the turn in an amazing 33. At 9 under Appleby had moved three ahead of his joint first round leader, Scott Hend, with Hend forced to wait until 5.30 pm before he would hit off, courtesy of the tee times reshuffle.
Appleby moved further ahead when he added another birdie at the, into the wind, par five 5th and was threatening to blow the tournament apart. He may well have by adding another at the 8th (his 17th) and then at the last hit his approach to three feet and made it for consecutive rounds of 66.
There were many cursing the day and the course set up and various other issues on day two but for those who complained, the perfect comeback was to remind those who dared of Appleby's amazing two rounds. He played in the worst of the conditions and leads by six.
There was no getting around it - this was some of the most impressive golf in the most demanding conditions. Golf Australia will be thankful for his efforts as they can use him to counter some of the criticism they will no doubt cop.
Appleby knew there was a potential problem when standing over a short putt at the 11th, his second hole, the ball oscillated. A hole later he was off the course but when he returned he put on a display of some note. "I controlled the ball well and controlled the length of shots well," said Appleby after his round.
"I am very respectful of this golf course and the weather. If you get lazy and make a mistake it will cost you."
Appleby was restrained but clear in his criticism of the course set up. "This (the situation today) was totally avoidable. The green speed needed to be at least a foot slower."
Soon after Appleby had completed his post round press conference, his closest competitors were struggling in their second rounds which for the likes of Scott Hend, James Nitties and Peter Wilson had started as late as 5.30pm (Hend), 5.50pm (Nitties) and 7.10pm (Wilson). They will complete only 6 or seven holes this evening but whatever they do it will not make any difference to Appleby having a substantial lead overnight.
They will be out early in the morning and may be advantaged by better weather early on Saturday.
As Appleby left the course for his hotel however his day was done. He was seven shots ahead of Nitties and Wilson who would be late for dinner.
About The Author : Bruce Young
A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.