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Garcia to move the needle at RACV Royal Pines

Garcia is likely to bring his green jacket to the Gold Coast (Photo: Getty Images)
The presence of reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia at this week's Australian PGA Championship - his first event in Australia since 2010 - promises to make this year’s event one of the most appealing since its relocation to the Gold Coast.

RACV Royal Pines will host the $1.5 million event for the fifth consecutive year and Garcia arrives off the back of a top-20 finish in Hong Kong last week, a 4th place finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and a win last month at his own event in Spain - the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.

While the Spaniard's most recent form is important, of more appeal is his charismatic and ‘heart on the sleeve’ style which adds a significant point of difference for tournament organisers this week.

Adam Scott is a previous winner and runner-up around Royal Pines and having now drifted to 31st in the world rankings and with some average performances in recent starts, the 2013 Masters Champion can ensure 2017 isn't a lost year by pushing Garcia and others to the limit in his native Queensland.

Having played just three events since the PGA Championship in August, the last of which was over a month ago, there may be considerable rust to dust off the clubs for Scott who hasn't won since his WGC-Cadillac Championship victory almost 21 months ago.

World No. 13 Marc Leishman has moved within one place of Jason Day in the world rankings and as is typical of the Victorian has done so in a quite understated manner.

This year has been his best to date with two PGA Tour wins, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the BMW Championship, two runner-up finishes and a 3rd place finish to accumulate on-course earnings in 2017 of just under US$7 million.

Leishman has surged up the rankings from 61st earlier this year and is now considered one of the game's elite. He might not carry the profile of Garcia or Scott but it is hard to imagine he won’t be a factor on the Gold Coast.

The 34-year-old has won lesser events in Australia during the Von Nida Tour days but given his new standing in the game he will be keen to add one of Australia’s flagship titles to his growing list of significant victories and appears well poised to do so having finished runner-up two starts ago in Korea.

The trio are the standouts in the field but, as we discovered at last week's Australian Open, such does not guarantee success and there are many others who could potentially repeat the surprise victory of Cameron Davis in Sydney and claim an important Australian title from near obscurity.

South Australian Wade Ormsby will also be one to watch following his breakthrough European Tour victory last week in Hong Kong.

We have seen similar results at Royal Pines in the past including the wins of Nathan Holman and Harold Varner III  in the past two years although in Varner’s defence he was a PGA Tour player when he recorded his win last year.

While touted as a European Tour event, which it officially is, there are very few European Tour notables playing. Garcia is no doubt cognisant of that fact and the benefit of Ryder Cup points but the substantial appearance money he will be receiving is perhaps the greatest carrot for him this week.

Australasian European Tour players Ryan Fox, Brett Rumford, Andrew Dodt and Jason Scrivener are also in the field and presumably would have played the event in any case because of its significance on the Australasian Tour.

Outside of those players there are very few from the European Tour who will even budge the needle in terms of recognition.

The PGA Tour players in the field - Cameron Smith, Matt Jones and Jonas Blixt - all played well last week in Sydney, add depth to the field and are all more than capable of lifting the Joe Kirkwood Cup on Sunday.

Rod Pampling and Greg Chalmers are also relatively recent winners on the PGA Tour and in the case of Chalmers it should be remembered he won this event at RACV Royal Pines in 2014 when defeating Scott in a seven-hole playoff.     

With the RACV Royal Pines layout totally revamped since 2015 the course has now had the opportunity to fully settle in and while its ‘newness’ brought many undone as unreceptive greens and gusty winds have taken their toll, this year should see the benefit of the dramatic changes made to the layout by Graham Marsh and his team.

All is in readiness for what appears to be yet another great week at RACV Royal Pines but there appears little doubt that the focus of attention is on one of the game’s most intriguing characters, Sergio Garcia.


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