New layout, same feel for Australian PGA

The Australian PGA Championship returns to Hyatt Regency Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast for the 8th staging of the event there although in 2009 the tournament gets a new look.

The Robert Trent Jones layout at the Hyatt Resort was originally established in the late 1980's but the prime real estate on the beach side of the David Lowe Way (road) became too big an incentive for owners, Lend lease, to ignore. They commissioned Robert Trent Jones to relocate the five holes in that area back in the area of rain forest closer to the resort centre and as a result those playing this week are amongst the first to experience the new layout.

The event brings tournament golf to an end in 2009, the relaxed party atmosphere creating the perfect finale to the end of a long season for many. Not that tournament golf in the modern era necessarily has a start and a finish to a season. The nature of world golf in the 2000's essentially means that players with a recognised tour on which to play are playing almost year round.

No sooner has one season finished than another one starts and many of this week's field will be back in action in the first week of January either in the US, at the Victorian Open or in European Tour events in Africa. Still the Australian PGA Championship has developed into a must play for most eligible Australasian golfers and this week's event is no exception.

The only current Australian player who is not in the field and who should be is Peter Lonard who has dominated this event at this layout having won it twice on his own, shared the title once in that ridiculous tied event in 2002 and then finished runner up to Nick O'Hern after a playoff. Lonard is suffering from an injury to his back and has been forced to take additional time off to sort the issue out.

Geoff Ogilvy is the defending champion but appears a little jaded right now and admitted as much after a lacklustre effort at the Australian Open. He is well short of the form he displayed at this time last year but he is Australia's best in terms of world ranking and achievement over the past few years and as such deserves respect.

Adam Scott arrives without the pressure of having to win in Australia for the first time, having got that out of the way last week in Sydney. There is little doubting of the confidence and form he will bring to the event this week and he although this is a week where he might conceivably 'enjoy the moment' of what he achieved at the NSW Golf Club. he is made of stronger stuff than that.

Robert Allenby is playing the event after his fine win in South Africa last week against a very strong field. Allenby has won this event on three occasions but once at the Hyatt that coming in his brilliant triple-crown winning year of 2005.

I think Nick O'Hern has the credentials to win his third event at Hyatt Regency Coolum, having won the Schweppes event here in 1999 in the last event of late century and again when he defeated Lonard in a playoff in 2006. O'Hern played well in Florida recently when 4th and last week at the NSW Golf Club finished in a share of third after being in the mix for much of the week.

Another who has a real chance to win what will surely be the first of many events in his home country is Michael Sim who has shown form at the Hyatt Regency Coolum previously and who has been so brilliant in 2009. Sim played well last week in Sydney finishing in a share of 6th and it would not surprise to see him finish off a season, where he has set a money winning record on the Nationwide Tour, with a win.

American Bryce Molder had a very good tournament in what was a relatively foreign environment for him last week in Sydney and it would not surprise, in what are surroundings more similar to those he faces in the US, for him to do even better this week. Now that he has found his feet on the PGA Tour, Molder is beginning to emerge as the player many felt he would be when such a good amateur seven years ago. If a foreigner was to win this week it could well be Molder.

Another foreigner (if we can call our trans Tasman brothers foreigners) who has a good chance this week is the New Zealand left hander Tim Wilkinson. Wilkinson has played quite nicely since his return from thumb injury and surgery a month ago at the Australian Masters. There he finished 17th and followed that up with a reasonable week at the NSW Open then finished 12th last week in Sydney. His third round of 67 at the Australian Masters was one of the best rounds of the day in just his third round of tournament golf in five months. Wilkinson has played well at Coolum previously being in the mix last year before a poor final round. 

The few players outlined above are but a few of those who have a chance to contend this week. Australian PGA Championship has become a birdie fest in recent years when played at the Hyatt Regency Coolum and in that regard offers a stark contrast to the battles of late week at the demanding layout of the NSW Golf Club.

The Australian PGA Championship is however no less intriguing and just as was the case last week with Adam Scott, the winner will establish for himself a special in Australian golfing history.


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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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