Australian Open Preview

Emirates Australian Open
27-30 November 2014
The Australian Club, Rosebery, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Introduction

The annual battle for the Stonehaven Cup will take place this year at The Australian Club, the host of the first Open in 1904 and an ever-present in the rotation. The most recent winners here have been Craig Parry (2007) & Peter Lonard (2004) - both skilful shortish-hitters who underline the skill-set required for success on this course.

Australian players have won 17 of the past 20 Opens, though mainly because most top professionals stopped coming from the 1980's as money steadily replaced tradition in the golfing world. Jack Nicklaus won the final three of his six Aussie opens on this course; those were the days!

Course

The course, which was re-designed by that same Nicklaus in 1977, is a challenging track with plenty of the original water and bunkers plus a lot of more recently introduced trees, placing a premium on accuracy off the tee.

In addition approach play precision, often in tricky cross-winds, is required into greens that are diagonally laid-out to deliberately challenge approaches.

These difficulty factors are counterbalanced by the relative shortness of this Par71 7,000yd (6,400m) layout though only four players finished under par when Lonard (-3) won in 2004 showing just how tough the course can play, while in 2007 Parry won with 11-under. It's no pushover!

Top of the Market

3.50 Rory McIlroy
5.00 Adam Scott
11.00 Jordan Spieth
23.00 John Senden & Geoff Ogilvy
26.00 Brendon de Jonge
34.00 Boo Weekley
41.00 Marcus Fraser, Matt Jones & James Nitties

No argument with Rory McILroy, the defending champion, being the clear favourite ahead of world #3 Adam Scott. In picking a winner, it'd normally be difficult to look past these two, and rising superstar, Jordan Spieth.
However, as we have seen above, this course does not reward power and this is a levelling factor, expanding the group of potential winners.

Who will Win?

Rory McIlroy fully regained his mojo during a stellar 2014 that has included two Major wins. However, after celebrating the R2D title in Dubai, traveling and being second-up after a break (racehorse theory here!), there are sufficient negatives to put me off recommending him at such a short price.

In addition, he's been beating up wide open courses with his 350yd drives in recent starts and, unless he drives them all dead straight, that bomber strategy simply won't wash here.

Adam Scott's high ball flight and average putting, combined with his short price, have put me off him this week while I'm prepared to discard Spieth purely on the basis of a lack of experience on this type of course.

All the modern era winners at The Australian, dating back to Bob Shearer in 1982, were mature age pro's with at least 10 years experience under their belts. That history, combined with the twin needs to manage possible wind and play with true precision points me to experience in trying to select the winner.

Therefore, I'm moving past the three faves and choosing John Senden as my outright win selection. He's paying 21.00 - 26.00 around the bookies while I rate him 18.00 here, making him a logical each way bet. Backing him each way also insures against one of those three superstars catching fire and blowing the field away!

Top10 Place Value

Given the quality of the three players at the top of the market, and the strong likelihood that all three plus Senden will place in a field as weak as this, I'm recommending two Top10 bets - as I profitably did last week at Metropolitan.

My first selection is Nick O'Hern at 11.00 who finished 2nd the last time this course was used for the Open, in 2007. After a 3-month break from competition, he finished a solid enough 25th last week and this week's course will certainly suit his game better.

He possesses the experience and patience to do well at The Australian along with a game that, when on, is all about precision.

My other Top10 selection is Nathan Green at 13.00, maintaining my 'Aussies will go well' theme, and of the same vintage (experience) as O'Hern.

His four starts in Australia in recent weeks have realised: 19th, 9th, 18th & 25th last week at the Beteasy Masters - showing his preference for home conditions after a terrible 2014 in the USA, mostly on the WebCom Tour.

Top Longshot

My top longshot is former star amateur Bryden McPherson. He wasn't ready for The Open Championship in 2011, nor Augusta National in 2012, but has progressed in finding his feet in the paid ranks since turning pro in 2012.Though he has mostly struggled in stronger fields, he was a great 4th in last year's Emirates Australian Open and in recent months had three consecutive Top20's on the new PGA China Tour.

After a handy 11th at last week's Beteasy Masters, I wouldn't be surprised to see him perform well in this and he's paying 19.00 with StanJames for a Top10. With the bookies, he's available at up to 200/1 (50/1 the place - top5) as I type.

Cheers and Good Luck with your Golf Punting!

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