Feeding off home crowd support, local course knowledge and familiar turf conditions are reasons to believe the Cameron Smith-led Ripper GC can break through for a first team victory when LIV Golf makes it Australian debut in Adelaide on Friday.
Open champion Smith captured the individual title in Chicago during LIV Golf’s inaugural season. However the all-Australian team has just one podium finish in 11 events through the first season and a bit.
Huge crowds are anticipated for The Grange Golf Club – with as many as 75,000 spectators expected across four days (including pro-am). Sellout ticket sales will ensure a packed atmosphere on The Grange’s composite layout, using nine holes from the Greg Norman-designed East course and nine from Michael Clayton’s West course. A rowdy atmosphere is predicted for the par-3 12th hole where players will hit an 8 or 9-iron into a punchbowl-like green.
“The Australian public, and definitely Adelaide I think, has embraced the golf tournament,” said Smith. “I can’t wait for tomorrow. I think it’s going to be the benchmark for LIV Golf going forward.”
“It’s great to be home. All four of us are pretty pumped to be here,” added Marc Leishman.
“The support that the Australian people and people of South Australia have shown for LIV and us so far has been pretty awesome. And obviously it’s going to be a lot bigger and better during the tournament.”
Matt Jones said they were buoyed by the excitement of playing golf here during April as opposed to December when feeling exhausted on the back of a heavy PGA Tour schedule.
Familiarity with the firmer, faster playing characteristics at The Grange are likely to benefit the Aussies more than local knowledge, according to Marc Leishman. Fairways at Grange are Santa Ana couch while turf on the slick putting surfaces are a combination of A4 and A1 bentgrass.
“It’s nice to be back in Australian turf conditions, too,” said Leishman. “Just our years of playing on these turf conditions might be a little advantage rather than knowing the course well,” Leishman said.
With closely mown surfaces surrounding the greens, teammate Jed Morgan said he was more comfortable having multiple choices as opposed to one option on American courses where thick greenside rough is customary.
“You learn so many different shots around the green. It’s nice to come back and actually play – and have the opportunity to play – three different shots from the same spot. That’s so unique,” Morgan said.
Meanwhile, Smith reflected upon his Masters performance at Augusta National where he tied for 34th after entering as one of the pre-tournament favourites. He feels as though his game is trending in the right direction after sorting out a few things with his coach.
“I feel as though Thursday at the Masters, that was basically my only day I had where we had kind of good weather. I only had a couple under (par) there. The course was a little bit soft and I feel as though I left a few out there. Then from there I was on the back foot the rest of the tournament.”