A collection of my golf thoughts reviewing the World Cup of Golf and looking ahead to three stroke-play events this weekend on three continents.
Denmark secured a maiden World Cup of Golf triumph as Thorbjorn Olesen, 26, combined with veteran Soren Kjeldsen for a solid four-stroke victory at Kingston Heath in Melbourne. Olesen, who won the first leg of the European Tour’s season-ending series in Turkey earlier this month, finished on the Sunday with some crisp putting as the Danes prevailed over the USA, China and France with that trio finishing at 16 under. Behind them was Sweden who shot the best of the day on Sunday with a 10 under round seeing them finish at 15 under.
Pre-tournament favourites Australia (Adam Scott and Marc Leishman) opened with a 74 and whilst they improved with the four-ball format firing 68 and 65, respectively, on Friday and Sunday they were too far back by Friday evening despite their second round improvement.
Australian and China have hosted the event since 2007 but the tournament doesn’t run every year and indeed before last weekend the event hadn’t been held since 2013. There is no set details (venue or date) for the next edition of the tournament so that is all the more disappointing for the rare team’s event which rated well on Sunday with 134,000 viewers (especially considering the event clashed with the test cricket) A tournament which has seen top players like Jason Day, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods win in since 2000 deserves better planning.
Player performance notes:
Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Nathan Holman is the defending champion for the final major event in Australia this summer having won the Australian PGA at Royal Pines last year. The $1.5 million event, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour, returns to the same Gold Coast venue this year.
10 to 20: Cameron Smith. One of the playoff contenders from the Australian Open a fortnight ago Smith has had extra time to perfect his game not playing last weekend at Kingston Heath and isn’t facing up to Jordan Spieth here.
20-50: John Senden. The 45 year-old was two shots off the winner Peter Senior in the Australian Masters last year and is experienced on the big stage having finished T4 in the USA PGA in 2007 and won two years ago on the US PGA Tour.
50-100: Nathan Holman. Victorian Holman did prevail in a playoff against Harold Varner III and Dylan Frittelli last year but has withdrawn from two of his last four events he’s started in plus by-passing the Australian Open after his maiden season in Europe. Hopefully the back injuries have settled down now.
50-100: Richard Green. World number 323 Green was T6 here last year on a tricky course when the winner only got to par for the four rounds and has an early tee time in round one so has the chance to set the pace.
100-200 Ben Eccles. The Victorian didn’t end up with a European Tour card following his recent qualifying campaign but if he can improve on his recent T7 at the Fijian International, an event dominated by American Brandt Snedeker, he could add to his NSW Open from last year.
100-200: Jordan Zunic. A player I looked at for Royal Sydney. Zunic, 24, was T9 last year here in the Gold Coast but finished down the field T44 in the Australian Open.
Greens in regulation
Going from one team-based event to three tournaments across the top two men’s tours means we are spoilt for choice this weekend with tournaments in the Bahamas, South Africa, and (as discussed above) on the Gold Coast. The defending champion in the Hero World Challenge is Bubba Waston but the focus is on Tiger Woods who returns after a 15-month absence from competitive golf. Should Woods complete the elite 18-player event he will rise to 750 or so in the rankings (he is currently 898) and a victory would have him around 123. Since his time off plenty has been written about Woods, this is possibly the most insightful (it is long), and some doubt does linger about his form given he is playing in an limited event which is linked to his charitable foundation. Would he feature is it was a regular tour event in say Georgia?
At Leopard Creek CC in South Africa Charl Schwartzel is the defending champion, and he’s won it four times since 2005. Interestingly three Frenchmen trailed the local Schwartzel last year so it won’t just be about the home-grown players at this event which, like the Australian PGA Championship, is co-sanctioned with the European Tour and South Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
The World Cup of Golf gave food for thought for those looking at future team events but what it did confirm was the format is a friendly one for spectators and allows for dramatic changes in the leaderboard, even though the Danes won handsomely, so the authorities should give consideration for using it as their Olympic format. There will be issues around capacity with 28-teams taking a long time to get through their rounds at some stages, especially on Sunday in Melbourne. This could be overcome by using multiple courses for the first two round and then having a cut if you expanded the field. How you added extra teams which caters for countries with lower ranking players is a challenge but not insurmountable. The Olympic tournaments were high quality but, and maybe it’s recency bias, a team format would add to the mix and I’ve change my tune with how it should look for 2020 in Tokyo and beyond.
Image via abc.net.au