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Chalmers takes Australian PGA in playoff

(Photo: David Newbery)
During its now ten year tenure at the Hyatt Regency Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, the Australian PGA Championship has seen many dramatic finishes.

It is difficult to rate them against each other but today's final round at the 2011 PGA Championship presented by Coca Cola must be considered amongst the best, if not the best.

Greg Chalmers put the icing on a great end of season stretch by winning the event in a playoff over Robert Allenby and Marcus Fraser, adding this title to the Australian Open Championship he won in Sydney two weeks ago.

The playoff trio had finished two shots ahead of the fast finishing Adam Scott and one of six leaders on the final day Aaron Baddeley. It was an action packed final day with the two players who appeared to control the outcome heading into the final round, K.T. Kim and Bubba Watson surprisingly losing their way.

That would leave the door open for many well off the pace through 54 holes and several would take advantage of the opportunity they offered. No fewer than six players either led or had a share of the lead and even 72 holes were unable to determine a clear winner.

In the playoff, first Fraser, then Allenby hit wild drives at the first and only hole, the 18th of the Hyatt Coolum layout, and with Chalmers finding the fairway from the tee he had the edge. His second finished 20 feet right of the hole and when he two putted for par his fellow protagonists were unable to match his effort.

"I'm thrilled, to have two Australian Opens and now an Australian PGA," said Chalmers. "The Australian PGA with I think our longest history and the names on here, to have a little piece of that history is what it is all about, and I have got that now and that is just fantastic."

Chalmers will possibly have the chance to add the final leg of Australia's Triple Crown if and when he tackles the J.B Were Masters in three weeks time although at this stage he is non committal about playing that event.

"I couldn't tell you right now, to be brutally honest I have played 31 or 32 events this year and I'm tired," said Chalmers when responding to a question about his chances of playing in Melbourne. "We don't dig coal for a living, it's certainly not something that needs physical strength, but it is just a decision I don't want to make right now."

Whatever the outcome of that decision and the outcome of the event itself it is clear that Chalmer's comeback from the lows of 2006 and 2007 is nearing completion although he is not quite ready to confirm that.

"I have always maintained that a career is a long time in golf and that is what I have said in the past, it's a positive but it can also be a negative cause there can be so many ups and downs. Does this complete a comeback?

"I think this is a fantastic trend and I give ultimate credit, like I did at the Australian Open, I couldn't have done this without the help of Colin Swatton, he turned my game around. I was in a rut, I was struggling on the Nationwide Tour and here I am four years later, I have been exempt for the last three years on the PGA Tour and I have just won twice in the last three weeks. That wouldn't have happened without his help."

Back then he lost his playing rights on the PGA Tour and struggled at even Nationwide Tour level before he joined forces with Australian golfing coach and mentor Swatton, who also coaches and caddies for Jason Day. Chalmers is now heading back to the level which saw him win an Australian Open in 1998 and finish runner-up at the PGA Championship behind Tiger Woods in 2000.

Chalmers was one of the six players who had a share of the lead at various stages throughout the final day today but an 8 foot birdie putt at the 17th took him to five under for the day and took him to the outright lead for the first time.

He was later joined in that lead by dramatic 72nd hole heroics by Robert Allenby and Marcus Fraser. Allenby holed from 20 feet for birdie followed soon after by Fraser who holed from 45 feet to join the playoff. They were forced to wait until the final two groups had finished but they were already aware of just what their task would be.

Allenby was disappointed but there his emotions were mixed. "I had a very good sleep last night and woke up this morning as flat as I have ever been in my life but as far as preparing for the last round," said Allenby. "I just tried to overcome and just sort of go through my morning routine that I would do.

Allenby still thought he was alive in the playoff despite his poor drive. "I still thought I had a chance, I know what playoffs are like, I know what it takes, I know how to win them. I have been what I thought out of the way and still won a playoff, so I knew if I hit a good eight iron into the last there and make a good putt you know, make par I would be going back to 18 again.

"But I got put off by a camera guy at the back of the green that moved, they seemed like they were all set and then this one guy on the green just decided to, thought he would get a better look you know, I had to back off and tell him to stand still and then I just kind of lost a little bit of focus.

"But anyway look I am happy with the result, yeah of course I wanted to win, I wanted to win my fifth PGA there is no question about it. Coming down the stretch I was pretty proud of myself the way I handled myself and the way I hung in there when it felt horrendous," he added referring to his swing.

Fraser was brave in his comeback from a very ordinary Saturday and he was philosophical about the outcome "It's just one of those things I suppose, I played terrible yesterday and didn't feel comfortable at all today until probably the last 5, 6, 7 holes and then to hit a tee shot like that on 18 was probably the same shot that I was hitting all day yesterday.

"It felt pretty good, it felt pretty calm on the tee, I was probably more nervous out on the course in real time, but unfortunately pulled the ears off the 18th tee and almost out of the playoff straight away. But I can't complain that putt on 18 to get into the playoff was pretty good. It was a bonus, the damage was done yesterday but I played pretty good towards the end of the day today and that's the way it goes."

And so three of the four much hyped and significant events of the Australian summer are over. The PGA Tour of Australasia heads to New Zealand next week for the New Zealand Open at Clearwater Resort followed by a one week break and then the J.B Were Masters at the Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne.

Bruce Young
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.

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