This Emirates Australian Open has reached the point where there is nothing left to do but start the thing.
What we learned throughout yesterday and today is that Marc Leishman has lost weight, Cameron Smith has three key weeks ahead of him in his bid to re-enter the world’s top-50, Ernie Els has come to Sydney with twin priorities, Adam Scott is surprised he has ‘only’ one Australian Open on his résumé, Sergio Garcia likes Sydney’s beaches (perhaps because he’s allowed to wear shorts there – something he was gently chided for mistakenly doing at The Australian yesterday), defending champion Abraham Ancer drew immense confidence from his victory last year, while the All Abilities Championship is paving the way for the first female Australian Open participant, even if she and the rest of the AAAC field have to wait until Friday to begin their quest.
The 2019 @AusOpenGolf course looks an absolute picture!
Take a look around with a bird's eye view 👁🗨 pic.twitter.com/ukZeLETtvp
— 7Sport (@7Sport) December 5, 2019
In the main draw, there’s a distinct sense of two fields in one: those with one eye on next week’s Presidents Cup in Melbourne and those for whom this Australian Open will cap the end of a long year.
“My focus is really on the team, not really on myself,” conceded Els, who is of course squarely in the former camp. “Getting the guys going for next week, that’s really on my mind, but obviously I’ve only played one other Australian Open in my whole career and this is the second one. But unfortunately for the event, my mind’s on other things, but I’d love to play well this week.”
Likewise, Scott is facing an intense fortnight of golf. Although he is feeling a little more weight of expectation this week than his Internationals captain.
“I wish I had more than one Australian Open,” Scott said. “I’ve been close a couple of times in the past 10 years and obviously I bogeyed the last and Rory birdied the last [in 2013], and that hurt a lot. A few years ago here I lost by a shot to Matt Jones, I believe.
“But I’m a little surprised that I haven’t won another Australian Open in this 10-year stretch. I managed to get a couple of [Australian] Masters in that period and a PGA, but it would be nice to get my name on that cup again. It’s a great trophy and any time you see your name kind of racking up on a trophy is something quite special. So this week would be the week to do it.”
The golf course – perhaps the pick of Sydney’s options from a tournament-staging perspective – looks a picture. First-timers and returners alike praised the shape of the Kensington layout, which is now six years removed from its overhaul at the hands of Jack Nicklaus.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Australian Golf Club, certainly since they did those major renovations six years ago or so,” Scott said. “I think it’s been brilliant and it’s obviously been a very strong venue to host this tournament. There’s been some great events here. It’s always in as good a condition as any course in the country, I believe, and it is again this week. So it’s all sitting right there for good golf to be played.”
And the visitors agree.
“I’ve just sampled the golf course, I love it,” Englishman Paul Casey said yesterday after playing nine holes alongside course record-holder Rod Pampling. “Sydney’s a great city, I had a lovely dinner last night. But yeah, I’m here to do a job and be professional. I might be tired, but I can muster energy for one more week.
“I gleaned a little bit of information out of Rod’s brain. I really like what I saw. I’ve seen it on TV but you never know with just seeing something on TV, until you see it in real life. You hope, you cross your fingers that you like a golf course when you turn up and, luckily, I instantly did, so I feel very good about it. I’ll learn the rest of it tomorrow (today) and it’s not going to be an issue. I’ll feel prepared by Thursday when I tee off.”
Gentlemen – and lady – start your engines.