Let the golf begin at Coolum

The Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca Cola is played at the Palmer Coolum Resort (previously the Hyatt Regency Coolum) for the final time when the event gets under way on Thursday.

There is a tinge of sadness about the development as, after ten years (until now), the event has grown into being one of, if not the most popular on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

When the decision was made to bring the event to Hyatt Regency Coolum in 2002 it was hard to imagine that such a decision would have the positive impact on the tournament it has. It has not only been the quality of players who have won the Championship during that period but that nearly every one of Australia's leading players has made it one of the first events pencilled into a schedule.

The fact that the Hyatt Resort carried its own very unique atmosphere and ambience made it a great way for a player to wind down his season and for him to reward his family for their role in his success and for keeping him 'on the road'.

The new ownership and management of the Palmer Coolum Resort clearly have a different agenda than those who went before and that is their right but the loss to the Australian PGA Championship and to the Sunshine Coast is significant.

It will be hard to replace such a self contained tournament venue where nearly everything a tournament requires for success is right on its doorstep but the show must go on as they say and go on it will.

As this is written other venues are being considered. Fortunately for the Australian PGA Championship the Queensland Government, via their 'Events' department, remain committed to the staging of the event in Queensland and more specifically South East Queensland.

There are few similar venues in the region although it is understood venues such as Sanctuary Cove and Royal Pines are both under consideration. Both have their respective merits.

Sanctuary Cove has played host to significant events in the past, for Sanctuary Cove it was a PGA Tour of Australasia tournament in the early 1990's. The Pines layout there is considered very much up to the standard required for an event of this sort and their new clubhouse facility is another plus along with the adjacent accommodation and entertainment precent.

Royal Pines has a proven record as a tournament venue in its role as the home of the Australian Masters over a long period of time and has many of the facilities needed to make a tournament a success including its location, its first class hotel and the logistical requirements that all help in the successful staging of an event of this nature. Its golf course probably requires some strengthening but that is not an impossible task.

These are not the only two events being considered but are the most talked about options at this stage it would seem.

This discussion and that of the delicate discussions between the resort and the PGA in the lead up to the event have dominated much of the pre event hype but tomorrow to tournament gets down to business when plays begins at 6.00am.

Pre tournament favourites with the bookies at least are John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy although Senden might have to deal with some scar tissue from Sunday and Ogilvy some indifferent form of late. Ogilvy has made a lot of cuts in 2012 but seldom contended and despite him winning the event here in 2008 he appears some way off winning form.

Senden's final round of 82 at the Australian Open when appearing poised to win is an issue he will need to put behind him but the Queenslander has a great record at Coolum without winning and could easily make amends.

Defending champion Greg Chalmers deserves another chance after finishing 23rd when defending his title last week in Sydney. Chalmers is a bit like Ogilvy this year in as much as he has made plenty of cuts but seldom contended in 2012.

Marc Leishman is a player good enough to have won on the PGA Tour in 2012 and although not quite at his peak since he did finish 6th in this event last year and is a player good enough to win against this field.

Last week Brendan Jones gave evidence to Australian golf fans just why he is such a force in Japan where he has won 12 titles. Jones has not played this venue for 11 years but is a very fine player. The problem for Jones this week is that his regular caddie is taking a week off and he is utilising two Canberra golfers who bid for the right to caddie for him this week. They jointly paid $25,000 for the right with that money going to the Canberra Cancerians charity.

It was an honourable gesture by Jones but whether or not it benefits his tournament chances remains to be seen.

Nick O'Hern won this event in 2006 and last week was making a run at the lead on Sunday when he triple bogeyed the 9th after negotiating the opening nine holes in 5 under. His record overall at this venue has been consistently good and it might just be what he needs to get his game back on track after what has been a difficult year.

Peter Senior seems to be out of favour with the bookies but that fact that he has won twice around this venue and comes off the back of his brilliant Australian Open victory tells the story of a player who could again contend. Coolum is not a golf course that requires length form the tee but rather good strategies and certainly Senior is not lacking in that department.

Senior and New Zealander Mike Hendry are first and second on the current Australian Order of Merit. A win for either would seal their place on the money list. Hendry is a player good enough to have finished 4th at the Perth International, 6th at the Talisker Masters and 7th at last week's Australian Open after a mercy dash to get to the first tee in time. He was delayed in getting out of Japan where he played the Tour School the week before so for him to finish as well as he did in Sydney tells the story of a player continuing to improve.

Earlier this season Hendry won the New Zealand PGA Championship and with a Japan Tour card now in his pocket he is on his way to a higher level in the game.

Darren Clarke will play the event after what was a poor week at Coolum last year. He showed signs last week in Thailand that his game was finally getting better after what had been a horror run since his win at the Open Championship at Royal St Georges.

Greg Norman is in the field also as is South African Rory Sabbatini so it is an eclectic mix that will face the starter at Coolum for the last time.

It has been controversial and volatile in its lead up but by the time play gets underway tomorrow morning then the focus will be on the battle for one of Australian golf's greatest championships - well hopefully at least.

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