Due to a truly outstanding record at Coolum, defending champion PETER LONARD must be forgiven last week’s disappointing work on the greens. Last year’s success here was his third in six years in this event, and he’s finished 2nd and 5th on two of the others. He simply didn’t score well enough at Huntingdale, but encouragingly did rank 7th in the all-important greens in regulation stats. This factor, plus a couple of decent Fall Series efforts in the States, suggest to me that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with his game and that he can still take a hand in these triple-crown events.
Stuart Appleby is another former Coolum winner, albeit ten years ago when the event was less competitive. His effort last week was too bad to be true, but while I expect a much better show, Appleby is another for whom next week’s Australian Open may be more suitable. Richard Green could be a popular pick after performing with distinction at the World Cup, but the left-hander’s long-term record at Coolum is very ordinary.
PGA Tour regulars Matt Goggin and Nathan Green are very plausible candidates on their course and worldwide form. Goggin would be a banker place if repeating any of his three recent top-4s in the States or his runners-up effort here in 2005. On the downside, that was his only decent effort at Coolum in five tries, and 20/1 is a very short price about a man who hasn’t won anywhere since 1999.
Green improved out of all recognition on 2008 form to finish 4th at Huntingdale, and has been top-8 in each of the last three PGAs. That suggests he’ll go close again, but he’s looked wholly unconvincing when presented with numerous winning chances over the years. Significantly, Nathan’s sole win came after starting the final round with virtually no chance, and posting an early total.
We saw the best and the worst of TIM CLARK at Huntingdale. For three rounds, he looked the best player in the field. Yet after holding the halfway lead to become favourite, Clark’s third round was abysmal. No doubt, the South African has many questions to answer on the bottle front, but I am prepared to give him yet another chance. Coolum, which places a huge emphasis on greens in regulation, should suit him better than Huntingdale, and with an extra week’s acclimatisation to Aussie conditions, he will be hard to keep out of the frame.
On the PGA Tour, JOHN SENDEN and MICHAEL SIM have been among the best of these recently. Sim’s last two US starts yielded very respectable finishes of 7th and 18th, and he shared the lead at Huntingdale before a poor final round. Hopefully that won’t have destroyed his confidence, because after finishing 3rd at Coolum last year he must be a serious contender.
Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Senden when the course suits his ultra-accurate game. He’s won an Australian Open and on the PGA Tour previously, and runners-up spot in the PODS Championship last March represents some of the best form on offer amongst this field. Senden is on record as saying this venue favours him more than any other on the Aussie schedule, and is fancied to improve on consecutive 6th places in 2004 and 2005.
Others to consider for at least a place include PGA Tour also-rans Tim Wilkinson, Paul Goydos and Matt Kuchar, while Marc Leishman made good progress on the Nationwide Tour. Greg Chalmers and Scott Laycock are two experienced home players who have often prospered at Coolum in the past.
None make quite the appeal of WADE ORMSBY though. After a miserable 2008, Ormsby has at last found some form in recent weeks, most notably when finishing runner-up under the greatest of pressure at the European Tour Qualifying School. Ormsby’s record in this event is very encouraging for a relative outsider, making the top-7 three times in five visits, including 3rd in 2006.
Next page: Australian PGA Championship advised bets
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