IT’S been another intriguing summer of golf Down Under, highlighted by two career-defining victories from Cameron Davis and Cameron Smith, and the minor distraction of Tiger Woods’ impressive return to professional golf.
While it’s great to see the 14-time Major winner back swinging a club with no sign of the crippling back injury that threatened to end his career, it’s hard to get past the absurdity around his mickey-mouse Hero World Challenge tournament and the inexplicable world ranking points that come with it.
How the Big Cat can jump from No.1,199 in the world to No.668 after his T-9 finish in the all-star 18-man field is one of the key reasons Australian golf has an unrealistic fight ahead of itself to get the big names here. But more on that for another issue.
Here are seven other observations (and some suggested tweaks) to help us continue to fight the good fight:
Divided We No Longer Stand?
The fragmentation of Australian golf’s governing bodies has hurt the sport in so many ways, but it stands out like Adam Scott’s long putter during the summer of golf. The fact that our best players can come home and play in just one Aussie ‘major’ due to an exclusivity clause in their contract is utter madness and counterproductive for the long-term viability of both the Australian Open and PGA Championship. Thankfully, the PGA of Australia and Golf Australia have put their hands up and acknowledged things must change … or at least that’s what we think we should take away from their recent joint-venture announcement to reduce duplication between the bodies and “improve efficiencies around operations”. The new initiative, set to tee off this month, will include a collaborative approach to media services and tournament delivery. What that means exactly we’re not too sure, but what will be interesting is how their collaborative approach works when the respective tournament promoters and tourism authorities again go to auction for the superior field in 2018? #Awkward
Transparency Around Appearance Fees
Ahhh, the two dirtiest words in Australian golf. The sad thing is appearance fees are here to stay, but how they are structured moving forward could prevent another Adam Scott/Marc Leishman Australian Open fallout. There was no escaping the media circus during Open week – all we kept hearing was how the cash booty Jason Day received to finally return home dwarfed the figure put forward to two of our most loyal homecomers in Scotty and Leish’. Consequently, noses got out of joint and the likable pair spent the week somewhere else in Australia, probably watching the cricket. It was a sick feeling for all concerned and one can only hope the damage done between players and promoters isn’t long term. Perhaps the first step to fixing the problem could be introducing a tiered contract structure like the Caribbean Premier League Cricket tournament. By publicly setting out all available player contracts in pay brackets (for example, Tier 1 get $600,000; Tier 2, $300,000; Tier 3, $150,000 and so on) there is no misunderstanding what is available in the kitty or how it’s distributed. In the case of Scott and Leishman, they could be considered Tier 1 players and therefore command the same price as Day and Spieth. Throw in some performance-based bonuses and the higher each Tier 1 player finishes on the leaderboard, the more cash they take home. What? Incentivise performance? Incidentally, if Jason Day really wants to come home and “win multiple Stonehaven Cups” does he really need massive appearance fees to do it? #SubsidiseHisFuel
Monday Qualifiers Need a Revamp
Honestly and truly, 18-hole shootouts at Sydney suburban courses are no way to pave entry into the fifth oldest championship in the world. When you have budding young Aussie professionals like Harrison Endycott – a kid who has represented his country with distinction – sitting at home watching 10 pre-qualifiers, nine of them amateurs, who shot a collective 69-over par and all missed the cut, pros like Endycott have every right to feel peeved. As it stands, a low marker can have the round of his life at Liverpool Golf Club and be in the locker rooms of The Australian Golf Club a week later making up the numbers. All this achieves is dilution to an already stretched field and disillusionment for the guys who have really earnt the right to be there. Why not give half of these spots to Eisenhower Trophy representatives, past and present? If you’ve represented your nation you deserve a one or even two-year exemption in your national championship. #NotUpToScratch
Is it Time for a Sponsor to ‘Own’ Australian Golf?
Another rumour doing the circles over the summer was Emirates’ intention to pull out of sponsoring golf, particularly if another major sponsor can be found. How about this idea: why not package up and sell the entire summer of golf to one major sponsor, giving them naming rights to the Australian Open, PGA, World Super 6 Perth, associated state events and even our major amateur and junior titles? When you think what big brands like Emirates are prepared to pay to be the naming rights sponsor of the Melbourne Cup for one day, or even the Australian Open golf for a solitary week, what value could you put on year-round ownership of an entire sport across all its competitive levels? Associated sponsors could still be sold for each tournament and, who knows, we might not have to rely on the philanthropic Dr Handa of ISPS Golf to bail us out of trouble. It works for the summer of cricket… #UmbrellaSponsor
Early tee-times the way forward?
When Australian PGA Championship officials were forced to bring forward their final-round tee-times by three hours due to inclement weather forecasts, little did they know they were stumbling on a winner. Such a move has real merit for Aussie tournaments moving forward. Players got the best of the scoring conditions, television ratings blossomed during the morning hours (OzTAM ratings showed a 10 percent spike in audience year-on-year) without competition from Ashes cricket or V8 Supercars, gate takings didn’t take a hit, and there’s huge potential to create post-tournament celebrations that allow fans to mingle with players, who are naturally more relaxed now that their work is done. Ask anyone – players, tournament officials, media and, most importantly, the paying public – and they will tell you they don’t want to be hanging around late on a Sunday afternoon waiting for a result when they could be home with their families and friends. Unlike rugby league and AFL, which are tailormade TV sports, golf will always be a spectator sport. Why not take some proactive steps to ensure spectators get an unrivalled experience? Imagine a Sunday afternoon champion’s barbecue lunch, complete with coaching clinics and autograph sessions with all the marquee players. An unforgettable day out … and home before the sun goes down! #EarlyBirdiesGetTheWorm
RACV Royal Pines needs an island green
Credit where credit is due: Graham Marsh did a solid job transforming RACV Royal Pines Resort into a championship test. But I reckon he missed a trick by not turning the par-3 16th Soniq Million Dollar Hole into Australia’s first island green. We love the concept of the million-dollar hole, which gives every player at the Australian PGA Championship the opportunity to win $500,000 for an ace, plus $500,000 in prizes for one lucky fan. But imagine the theatre if the green was completely surrounded with water? Forget the cash, it would add a whole new dimension to the tournament that relies on a funky green complex at 18 to add last-minute drama. I’m still not sure why we are so afraid to copy a proven winner from TPC Sawgrass. #MakeASplash
Made in Australia
Who was the young Aussie junior who relied on an 11th-hour request from Jordan Spieth’s management to get him a start in the Emirates Australian Open? For the record, he’s the No.1-ranked 16-year-old on the planet, coached by Spieth’s Aussie-born instructor Cameron McCormick and went on to shoot 72-75 to miss the cut by three shots at The Australian Golf Club. Not bad for 16. But why didn’t he get an invitation earlier? If fast-tracking our best young talent is a priorty, it stands to reason this kid should be high up the pecking order, despite the fact he is choosing to pursue his golf career and studies in the United States. #CmonAussie
Birdie of the Summer
$25 tickets to the Australian PGA Championship. How it should be!
Bogey of the Summer
The inflated figures some international “stars” were demanding to come play Down Under. Stay at home, fellas. You’re not that good!