The controversial secondary cut used at last year’s Australian Open has been dropped by organisers who are gearing up for another groundbreaking edition of staging the men’s and women’s events concurrently – this time in Sydney.
On Wednesday, Golf Australia and the PGA of Australia took to Sydney Harbour during the city’s popular Vivid festival to reveal the 2023 ISPS Handa Australian Open would be played from Thursday, November 30 to Sunday, December 3 across two venues: The Australian GC and The Lakes.
The men’s, women’s and trailblazing All Abilities Championship will be played concurrently, although the All Abilities will conclude on Saturday, December 2. The Australian and The Lakes will co-host the Opens before the third and fourth rounds will be played at The Australian.
The men and women’s fields will compete for an equal share of the $3.4 million in prizemoney.
PGA Tour winner Lucas Herbert was announced as an early commit, while rising LPGA Tour star and Sydney native, Steph Kyriacou, will be among the 84 players (reduced from 108 last year) in the women’s field. The Women’s Australian Open returns to the Harbour City for the first time in 16 years.
Last year, the Australian Open became the first national open in golf’s history to stage its men’s and women’s draws concurrently.
In Melbourne on the famed Sandbelt, competitors played one round each at Kingston Heath and Victoria GC before Victoria exclusively hosted the weekend rounds. That almost doubled the amount of players who would normally be on course for a third round at an Australian Open, and so organisers instituted a secondary cut – the top 30 and ties in each draw.
One of the victims of that secondary cut was reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith.
Golf Australia chief executive James Sutherland said a consultation with the players had led to the secondary (54-hole) cut being scrapped.
“There are lots of logistics across two courses and three tournaments going on at the same time,” Sutherland said on Wednesday. “We’re going back to the traditional single cut on the Friday night; a one-tee start on the weekend. That was [something] the players felt [added] extra complications.
“People are so familiar with that tradition of four rounds and a Friday night cut and [as organisers] you’re going to learn and we’ve tried to clear things out a little bit.”
Sutherland said he was excited for year two of the mixed format, after Polish star Adrian Meronk defeated Adam Scott in the men’s draw last year. Reigning Women’s British Open champion Ashleigh Buhai earned a one-stroke victory over Korean star Jiyai Shin in the women’s event.
“I think it’s a unique format; the whole vibe at Victoria GC last last year, where the tournament was there to be won on the weekend, was just amazing,” Sutherland said.
The mixed event did well for the Australian Open’s attendance figures, too. Although it was combining two events, the 2022 Australian Open attracted more than 50,000 spectators across four rounds. That was highest attendance since the 2011 Australian Open, when almost 80,000 turned out to watch Tiger Woods, who finished in the top five, and most of the American Presidents Cup team as well as Australian and international stars. Greg Chalmers won that edition at The Lakes.
“It’s not all about [attendance] what what we know from the demographics in the crowd [last year] is that it was a very different crowd; more women and more kids and that’s what we’re all about. We want to impress on everyone that golf is a sport for all,” Sutherland said.
Whether the 2023 men’s and women’s Australian Opens can attract the same amount of talent this year is not yet clear. Last year, Smith and fellow major winner Minjee Lee, who had won the 2022 US Women’s Open, headlined a field that included male stars Scott, Herbert, Min Woo Lee and Meronk as well as LPGA Tour stars Lee, Hannah Green, Buhai, Shin and Jennifer Kupcho.
Sutherland said organisers would know more about star commitments by August.
“We’ll work through that process; we don’t wan be overconfident because of players schedules,” Sutherland said.
“[We will know more] after the Open Championship [in July] when players start to plan the second half of the year. We will be in constant dialogue with players and their managers.
“We’re very hopeful we’ll have a huge contingent of Australian players and hopefully, with DP World Tour co-sanctioning and other recruiting we’ll be doing, we’ll get some other international [stars] as well.”