There has been a lot of recent controversy surrounding the decision to schedule the Australian Open prior to the Presidents Cup.  The opinions are wide and varied throughout the golf industry, here are some of the arguments.

QUESTION: Did the PGA make the right call in scheduling the Australian Open before the Presidents Cup?

YES

Rob Willis

I’ve got one simple statement to make. To IMG, to State Government officials in Victoria, to golf followers in Melbourne, and to those who thought the Australian Masters had the God-given right to be the lead-in event for the President’s Cup in November – you weren’t getting all the players for two weeks anyway.

The decision surely was the right one, and certainly the only decision which could be made in best interests of golf in Australia.

As individual as the players are in their scheduling and commitments, getting them together for one week at the President’s Cup is hard enough. Securing them all for two weeks is a pipedream.

As for “preparation in Sandbelt conditions”: the truth is these blokes are good enough to adjust from one type of golf course to the next. Some will be better at it than others, but isn’t that what becoming an elite player –capable of playing anywhere in the world–is all about?

Yes, Melbourne has the best golf courses in the country. Yes, they can stage a quality sporting event, and there is little doubt the President’s Cup will be a fantastic week of golf. But if (and it is a big if) a selection of President’s Cup team members want to play the week prior, it wasn’t going to make any difference where the tournament was conducted.

And even if they were to come for a fortnight to Australian shores, why should Melbourne have the exclusive rights to the World’s best for two weeks in a row? Sydney and Queensland golf fans  certainly deserve to see a Stricker, Mickelson, Furyk, Els, Goosen or Oosthuizen.

Most of the Australians will come to The Australian Open and PGA Championship, and if conditions can be met and financial inducements included, International teammates and opponents from the US squad will join them.

The Singapore Open is the same week as the Open and they are certain to have fatter wallets than we do, and knowing the best 50-or-so in the world are in China the week before, they will bid heavily for a collection of superstars to attend their event. Should the schedule have come out differently, Singapore certainly wouldn’t have thrown the hands up and said, “for the benefit of the game of golf we will leave all President’s Cup players alone and let them prepare in Melbourne.”

Then there are others still who will return to the US after a long and arduous season, recharge, pack some bags, pick up the family and get themselves organised for the President’s Cup. Those falling into that bracket were never coming for the two weeks regardless.

The fact of the matter is Melbourne will have 24 of the world’s best golfers for one week during November and they should be justifiably excited about that.

Spread the love Melbourne. And if a sprinkling of President’s Cup team members want to extend their Australian visit, let them come to Sydney and show another audience their considerable talents.

NO

Richard Fellner

Being an enthusiastic (nay, rabid) Melburnian, I will begin by removing my “Victorian Golf” cap, and try to weigh in wearing my “Golf Purist” cap.

The PGA and Golf Australia say that their decision was made “for the good of Australian Golf”. Spreading the love to all states this year certainly makes sense on the surface. (Below the surface, we’re sure there were plenty of politics and even a bit of chest-pounding at play, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.)

One of the forgotten issues here is the fact that the Australian Open – our National Championship – is currently not played ‘Nationally’. Many years ago, the decision was made to “lock in” the Open for an extended period in NSW. While it is beneficial for Sydney golf fans, I believe this was a mistake, as it is depriving the rest of the nation the opportunity to witness our National Championship.

The Australian Open was once considered the 5th Major.  Back then, it travelled around the country to a variety of great courses like Royal Adelaide, Kooyonga, Lake Karrinyup, etc. Heck, even Royal Hobart hosted the event in 1971 (won by Jack Nicklaus in a landslide).  When the event came to your state/course, it was “special”. It was something that only came around once in a while. Like today’s US Open and (British) Open Championships.

These days, our selection of top-quality courses is larger than ever. And while not all of them have ideal facilities for a major event, returning the Open to a yearly or even biennial “Travelling show” would make the event “special” again. It would result in many economic benefits for each state, and boost interest in golf those areas as well.  Now THAT’s good for golf.

But I digress.

Let’s imagine, if you will, that a “travelling” Australian Open was held in Melbourne this year. Any Sandbelt course would do. And while we’re at it, let’s also imagine that John Brumby was still the Premier of Victoria (and willing to put proper prizemoney toward the event). Now, if we slot the Open before the Presidents Cup – and given it a proper winner’s cheque — we would have created a fortnight-long “Mega Event” that would surely have brought in extra corporate sponsors, more spectators and a level of excitement that would rarely have been seen in Australia. Imagine all of the mini clinics, celebrity appearances, Charity Skins Games or other private events that we could have created in Victoria (or even Tasmania) with these golf stars over the two weeks.

It’s the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” effect. And while Victoria would have certainly seen the lion’s share of the tourism/hospitality spoils, the cumulative effect on Australian golf and Australian tourism could have been glorious.

At any rate, this is all moot, as the decision has been made. And when put in context of the recent flood devastation, it all seems minor by comparison.

One thing is certain: Australian golf fans are in for a spectacular summer in 2011.

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YOUR  SAY

What do you think about the scheduling? Would you rather have the Australian Masters (in Melbourne) play host to the first tournament prior to The Presidents Cup?   Or should the Australian Open be moved to Victoria? Share your thoughts below.

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One Response to "The Australian Open scheduling debate"

  1. William B  February 6, 2011

    PGA vs IMG…we’ll see who really runs golf.

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