Huntingdale Golf Club, South Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia.
19-22 November 2015
Formerly a showpiece of any Australian golf season, the Australian version of the Masters continues its decline in attractiveness, tracing back to the loss of its co-sanctioning arrangement with the European Tour in 2009. The JB Were Masters of 2010-11 became the Talisker Masters for 2012-13, morphed briefly into the BetEasy Masters last year and is now the UNIQLO Masters - for which any Google search will return results on wheelchair tennis doubles!
Perhaps a return to its spiritual home at Huntingdale this year will be the spur for a revival of this formerly great event. Otherwise, perhaps the organisers need a new Marketing Manager?
Poor Scheduling Doesn't Help?
Scheduling a supposedly marquee Aussie event opposite the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan where 7 top Aussies tee it up this week, the European Tour QSchool Final (9 Aussies) & the Asian Tour's Manila tournament (11 Aussies) guarantees the absence of far too much home-grown talent.
The Masters has mostly produced Australian victors with Adam Scott winning two of the past three events, at Royal Melbourne & Kingston Heath and he's the logical and hot (3.75) favourite here.
In fact, Australians have won 27 of 36 Masters dating back to the event's inception in 1979, despite the regular presence of invited superstars, so it makes sense to bet on a home victory again this week. I will be.
Like Metropolitan last year, Huntingdale is one of Melbourne's many wonderful and challenging sandbelt courses though, surprisingly to me, it struggles to make anybody's Top 20 list of best Australian courses. It's expected to feature, as per this time of year, some wind and those hard fairways that require choleric acceptance of one's fate in the face of: big bounces, uneven lies, too-long fairway rolls and lightning-fast greens.
At a par of 72 it's long enough, while its tree-lined and slightly narrower fairways than neighbouring courses, strategic fairway bunkering and large, fast, undulating, bent grass greens make it a challenge. Though some critics have labelled it 'boring' and 'lacking quality holes', I believe the links nature of the course and its tough closing stretch of holes will make it a nervous finish for many.
The amount of fairway roll likely to be on offer means longer driving is not relevant to my player assessments as precision, good approach play, patience and quality putting will combine to get the job done here.
Top of the Early Markets:
3.75 Adam Scott
13.00 John Senden & Steven Bowditch
23.00 Cameron Smith & Nicolas Colsaerts
30.00 Richard Green, Matthew Millar & George McNeill
Others in the early markets at 40/1 or shorter are: Brett Rumford, Daniel Fox & Wade Ormsby.
Who will Win?
Realistically, Adam Scott only needs to bring his 'B' game, and putt moderately well, to annex this one. In top form, he'd lap this relatively weak field!
However, if you're a non-believer, detest super-short prices (like me) or suspect Scotty's putting will falter again (no wins for the past 18 months), then I recommend John Senden as having the best tools to overcome Huntingdale's challenges.
His recent form is sound: 16th (Shriners) & 37th (CIMB) in PGATour fields and he finished 15th the last time the Masters was played at Huntingdale. Senden always plays well in Australia at year's end though he's long overdue to break a home win drought dating back to the 2006 Australian Open - his sole Aussie victory.
Who might Place Top5 or Top10 at a Good Price?
Aaron Townsend won the Victorian PGA at Huntingdale in February and was a good enough 14th in NSW last week. His opening price of 66/1 (67.00) looks a bit generous to me. Aaron wins too infrequently but does rack up the Top10's. A good each way bet.
In a year of ridiculously talented and over-achieving 20-somethings, my favoured roughie is Victorian 23-y-o Anthony Houston who has a pair of recent 10th placings on tour on his resumé. He opened at 125/1 - 150/1 so there might be some juicy Top10 prices available later in the week!
Final Word in a year dominated by Youth
While I don't think either will win, there are two globally-admired up-and-comers who should be worth the price of admission alone. If you can make it to Huntingdale, get out and see a couple of future champs!
22-y-o Bryson DeChambeau who recently won the US Amateur matchplay, also has three Top20's in the strokeplay 36-holer that precedes the matchplay (2015, 2013 & 2012). Serious golf fans will know just how good that set of strokeplay performances was! He missed qualifying by just 2 shots in 2014.
In 2015 he became only the fifth golfer in history to win both the NCAA Division I championship and the US Amateur in the same year, joining illustrious company in the form of: Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Tiger Woods & some guy called Nicklaus!
He also led USA to a win at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championships in Japan, posting an event & course record 61 (-10) in the second round before he birdied the final hole of the tournament to clinch the win! Class indeed.
22-y-o Cameron Smith is a month older than DeChambeau and looks to me to be the most promising Australian golfer of his generation. After winning the Australian Amateur in 2013 he racked up nine Top10's in 2014 in just 18 starts as a pro, including a 5th in the CIMB Classic in his first PGATour start!
In 2015, playing regularly at the top level for the first time, he has added a staggeringly good US Open 4th placing, 25th in the PGA Championship and a couple of Top20's in other PGATour events - enough as a non-member to secure his PGATour card for 2015/16!
Cheers and good luck with your golf punting!
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