The arrival of a Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf field headed by world number 11, Brooke Henderson, will highlight the capacity and flexibility of Royal Pines to host both men’s and women’s tournaments at near the highest level and determine just how well revamp designer, Graham Marsh, has met his brief.
There is little doubt the blustery winds, firm greens and much improved strategies which greeted the players for the European and Australasian Tour’s PGA Championship tested that field to the maximum, even par being the score required to get into a playoff for the title eventually won by Nathan Holman.
The new look 16th hole as set up for last year's PGA Championship (photo Bruce Young)
The PGA Championship perhaps highlighted the fact that, ideally, the layout needs another twelve months before its real benefit and quality is realised but the contrast between the rather benign and uninteresting previous layout and the highly strategic and aesthetically pleasing version which now exists is like chalk and cheese.
Tournament invite and world number 11 Brooke Henderson, one of the game’s most exciting young talents and who is playing the event for the first occasion, gave her thoughts of the layout based on what she had seen early in the week, emphasising the strategic nature of the course.
“I like it. It's definitely a lot tougher than what I've heard the course being in the past but this is the first time I've seen this course so I don't really have anything to compare it to. Overall, I think it will be a great test for the players here. As long as you play smart and put it in the right places, then you will make it okay."
Cheyenne Woods is a former winner at Royal Pines and is now an LPGA Tour player. She got to see the first stage of the redevelopment last year but like everyone else in the field is playing the fully revamped layout for the first occasion this week..
“The course is almost unrecognisable,” said Woods. "On some holes it's completely different from when I'd won two years ago. It is very interesting to see how it is going to play this week and how the scores are going to be, but I enjoy the changes.
“I think that it's a good challenge. I think it forces you to really think your way around the course. It forces you to hit specific shots into the greens especially with the runoffs and the different undulations and mounds. It is definitely a challenge and I enjoy it, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.”
The women will play the golf course as a par 73 the alteration to that played for the PGA Championship being the 18th which converts to a Par 5 for the women.
The 5893 metre layout (6455 yards) is nearly 800 metres shorter than that used for the PGA Championship but it is still expected to provide a demanding test this week especially if the easterly breezes continue as they have been early in the week.
All previous form at Royal Pines is essentially thrown out of the window this week as everyone one in the field is playing this new layout for the first occasion.
That point was highlighted by former world number one Jiyai Shin, who played the course for the first time during today’s pro-am following her press conference.
“Nobody has played this full course in tournament play before so there is no real advantage for anyone in that regard," said Shin.
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