Even contest shaping at Australian Open

Joint pre tournament favourite, Adam Scott, was reasonably happy with the state of his game during his press conference today for the 2011 Emirates Australian Open. The world number eight played last week in Shanghai and was in contention for much of the week before a last round of 73 saw him finish in a share of 11th position.

"It is not looking too bad, actually," said Scott before testing the Lakes layout for the first time this year. "I played quite nicely last week in China except for the Sunday. Unfortunately it wasn't my best day. But the first week back after five weeks off and I think a nice warm-up for this week and next.

"Well, Saturday wasn't much better. I lost my rhythm over the weekend. I was in a bit of trouble. I had a bit of a fun finish on Saturday to keep myself in the mix. I was playing okay on Sunday until the ninth.

"I put it in the water there and that was the end of my run as Martin went on a birdie blitz. I was a little out of sorts with the golf swing. The good feeling from the first two days weren't there but there is something to build on for this week.

Scott had yet to play the Lakes layout but was to head out to play the pro-am immediately following his press conference.

The Queenslander played this revised layout for the first time last year and at the time seemed less than enamoured with what he saw but seemed determined to not let that affect his chances. "It was not one of my favourite courses to play last year. There are a host of them that I play all year. It is all personal opinion about what sort of course you like and what you don't.

"Everyone is going to play the same course this week. I'll go out there and give it my best shot. I have been successful on courses I don't particularly like elsewhere. I hope it plays well. It would be a shame to see it rain a lot and not play the best it can."

Scott seemed reluctant to expand on the issues to do with his caddie Steve Williams and Tiger Woods but outlined why he had released a press statement yesterday. "I felt he was a part of my team and it was all unfortunate. I felt that if I spoke up, I could say my piece and I would not need to deal with it any more. I think it is a very unfortunate circumstance and we don't need that in the game. I wanted to put an end to it and I think I have.

"Everyone has their own opinion about this subject. I've stood by mine and said all I have to say about it, really."

Scott is one of seven players from the world top twenty in this week's field and one of 14 players who will compete in next week's Presidents Cup who are taking the opportunity to prepare for Royal Melbourne in Sydney.

"Before I went to China I was down at Royal Melbourne on the Sunday and Monday, said Scott. "I felt the changes that had been made to the grasses at Royal Melbourne "“ it had been six years since I'd played there "“ that it would be a good idea to have a sneak peek. It will be hard to take it all in next week with all the distractions. There will be lots of stuff happening out on the golf course. It was nice to be down there and not step on too many members' toes and get around the Composite Course somehow"¦it actually wasn't too busy. I don't think I upset too many people at Royal Melbourne, being a guest on a Sunday."

Matt Kuchar is another of the world top ten to greet the press today and revealed that the 2000 Australian Open was his very first tournament as a professional. He had been encouraged and assisted by Greg Norman to play the event that year and came down and played the Open the PGA and the masters that year.

"I had help from Greg Norman in arranging to go up to Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We had an amazing stay. Before that it was 2000. I think I made my professional debut down here at the Australian Open, PGA and Masters. I had a little vacation time with Adam Scott. We went around some of the other parts of the country. We came here to Sydney for a couple of days. I am very excited to be back."

To say the least Kuchar has gone full circle. He is one of the game's best now and in 2010 was the FedEx Cup Champion amongst many other milestones.

Pro-Am day today was hot and humid following the storm of last night. There is more rain expected perhaps tonight and almost definitely tomorrow morning. Further softening the golf course would be to the disappointment of tournament organisers and perhaps the course architect Mike Clayton who would have been hoping for a firmer golf course after the soft conditions of last year hardly gave his revised layout a chance to truly test the field then.

The forecast for tomorrow afternoon however is for strong breezes and it may well be those which help protect the course from an onslaught by this quality field.

Jason Day is back in action after a lengthy break from tournament golf preferring instead to spend time in his recently purchased property in Ohio with his wife Allie.

Day felt he needed a clean break to recharge the batteries for what will be a tough few weeks in Australia both physically and mentally. He gets the first real chance to expose his much vaunted game to the Australian public and knowing the pride the young man carries he will be keen to perform up to expectations.

Those expectations are now high. Twice a runner-up this year in debuts at the Masters and the US Open he has continued to fulfil the predictions of many that he is on track to become one of the greatest ever Australian players .

To his surprise Day is happy with the way he is swinging and feeling about his game, despite the layoff, and in front of a newly acquired fan base he could be in for a good week.

This is a field that carries many hopes however. In addition to those inside the top twenty there is Tiger Woods who is perhaps the great unknown in this field. He is capable of anything this week.

Woods played early today and is slowly but surely settling into tournament golf again. He played a lot of golf during a recent layoff but only one tournament and that was when making the cut at the Frys.com event in the US. His performance will be watched with interest not only from this week's point of view but also looking ahead to next week's Presidents Cup.

Dustin Johnson is the leading world ranked player in the field and Nick Watney has developed into one of the game's best players in the last two years. Whichever way you look there seems to be a winner.

Only one of the seven Australian currently inside the top one hundred in the world is not in the field. Brendan Jones has Japan Tour business to attend to but in every other respect this is a very strong Australian field.

One Australian who could easily surprise this week is Nick O'Hern. O'Hern returned from a surgery enforced layoff last year to finish a creditable 24th in this event last year and has had an outstanding season in the US, regaining his full playing rights after starting the year with Medical Exemption. He finished the year off well in the US with two 6th place finishes in his last few stars and regularly plays well at home.

This is without doubt the strongest field in terms of depth ever seen in Australian golf. There have been occasions in the past when a few of the games leading players have competed, more especially during the 1960's and 1970's, but never has there been such a depth in terms of quality players.

If the event delivers even half of what it promises then the Sydney golfing public is in for quite a treat.

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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