My next run of events started with two weeks in Sydney. I had the NSW Open and Australian Open so I decided to drive down from the Gold Coast. The NSW Open was at Stonecutters Ridge—only 5 minutes from my sister’s house! It’s always great to get down to catch up with Joanne, Mark and their kids Flynn and Jessie. (Although I must now admit, I have a new admiration for parents; gee it’s hard. They don’t stop!)
The course was in great condition but not really set up for my golf. The greens were small but off the tee it was nice and wide. I don’t hit it a long way so I need a course that is tight, where hitting it straight is a real advantage. I opened with a 1-under-par 71; way back in the pack. 10-under was leading so I had some work to do. The second day was better and even though it was windy, I played awesome golf. I shot 65 to move up inside the top 20 and in great position to attack the weekend. 70 was the best I could do on moving day, which wasn’t good enough. I was still inside the top 20 but I really needed a low one to make a move. Adam Blyth was leading with a total of 21-under so a career low round was needed on Sunday to make a move.
Sunday started with birdies on 1 and 2 but unfortunately that’s where it ended. This game still surprises me every day. You can be 12-under for an event and playing nicely and then suddenly you look like you’ve never played the game before. Five bogeys on the front 9 had me turning in 3-over and moving the wrong way! I ended up shooting a 4-over par 76 to finish about 50th. Disappointing.
I must thank my caddy Rob Gibbison. Rob plays at Castle Hill Country Club and carried my bag for four days. This may not sound huge, but he told me it could have been the first time he walked a course in 10 years! He did a great job and was paid in beer currency, which he was more than happy with.
The Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club was too far to drive from my sister’s house each day so I stayed with some friends, Glen and Sandy Phillips. Glen is the Head professional at Monash Golf Club and they always look after me and make me feel at home. (To anyone in Sydney that needs help in any area of golf, give Glen a call. His golf knowledge is awesome).
My plan for the week was to play 9 holes Monday and Tuesday, with the Pro-Am Wednesday. You need to organize your week to practice hard and get a good feel for the course but also stay fresh. The course was in awesome condition as it always is. And it really suited my eye. It’s not a bomber’s course. You need to hit it straight and put it in the right spots. I played great the first day but only managed to shoot 1-under par 71. I felt like I left a lot of shots out there but it was a good start.
I was off late the second day and you always know playing an Australian Open, Friday afternoon the course can get firm and quick. Once again I played great and had it to 4-under for the tournament with 8 holes to go. I hadn’t hit a drive left for four weeks and, guess what? I did it on the par-5, second hole (my 11th hole for the day). Probably the only hole that you can’t hit it left! A double-bogey saw me fall back in the field but I still finished 1-under for the day and 2-under after 36 holes.
Saturday is traditionally moving day and I feel that’s what I did. I started in about 40th position and moved in to 8th with a round of 4-under. The only difference between the first two days and the third day was the putter. As I’ve said in past, you need to hole putts. This game is all about the score and nothing else.
The final day I was paired with Nick Cullen with whom I’ve played many times. We were playing behind Robert Allenby and in front of Adam Scott so I was looking forward to the big crowds that were out. And the crowds did turn up. It’s always a great feeling when you look down the fairway and the people are three or four deep. This Sunday felt a lot like the NSW Open. I started well and let it go as the round went on. I had 5-over my last 8 holes to finish 44th. It didn’t take much either; a couple of bad drives and my ball plugged in a bunker. What I did take out of the week was that I needed to improve my putting routine. I felt I was taking too long and losing a little feel. If I shortened the time in my routine hopefully I wouldn’t think too much, which would lead into better flow. I also want to thank my Caddy Peter Welden who jumped back on the bag just for this week. Pete caddied for me for a couple of years but is now working for the NSW PGA and is doing a great job. I’m not sure what job was harder for him, working at the PGA and earning a weekly wage or caddying for me and earning the inside of a donut!
I jumped in the car and headed for Queensland and the Australian four-ball Championship. In the team was my sponsor Robbie Bennetts, Paul Gabell (or Boof, as we call him) and Tony Coyne. The event was three days at Royal Pines and both as a team and individually we didn’t fire. I haven’t played the new Royal Pines that much and haven’t worked out how to keep my ball away from the huge mounds and undulations. I worked hard on my putting routine with my coach Benny from Southport and felt like I hit a heap of better putts.
My next event is the Finals of Japanese Tour School. The game has been in good condition and the body is feeling good so hopefully with a little momentum going my way, I could be back in Japan next year.