Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aussie Allegiance Waning?

The Australians are not happy that their best representatives, #6 Adam Scott and #13 Geoff Ogilvy, will be making sketchy appearances in the Australian swing. Adam Scott has flat refused to appear at the Mastercard Masters this week and has elected to play only in the Australian PGA Championship. Ogilvy, citing family concerns, will head to the United States this week and only play in the Australian Open. He will be participating in next week's ultra limited field Nedbank Challenge in South Africa - worth a cool $5 million.

Trevor Grant questions the reasons given by the Aussies separately.

Constantly, we are told that Australian players are so drained at this time of year that it's unfair to expect them to play all three events in Australia.

Yet Scott, who has included Japan and Singapore on his schedule so far this month, and Ogilvy can both summon enough energy to zip off to South Africa next week, for the $5 million Nedbank Challenge.

A one-off absence is understandable. But there is a pattern here that is revealing, and disturbing.

At a time when the Australian tour is being swamped by the huge growth in Asia, we need our very best players more than ever. And, to be frank, they owe it to the circuit that helped give them their start.

It is hard to argue with Grant's logic. The solution he proposes, though, is difficult to swallow as a golf fan.
The [Australian] circuit can no longer afford to provide the lure of a welfare cheque to no-name players who add nothing to the tournaments.

It needs to cut fields from 140 to 60-80 and reduce to them to 30-40 at the weekend, providing TV with a more streamlined product and money to bolster the rewards at the business end of the event.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I am no fan of limited field events - especially outside of the PGA Tour. This is because it cuts off opportunities for lesser, up and coming players, and basically turns into opportunities to be a money grab for the better players in terms of both appearance fees and having easy or no cuts. In essence, the development of events like the ones Grant is describing in Asia are exactly what is killing the Aussie circuit.

Is the only way to boost Aussie golf to match the Asian Tour by doing what it is doing? Perhaps so, but that may kill Aussie development golf as we know it - something that the Australians take deep pride in when they make it to the big time. Aussie players got their start by being able to compete on the same stage as the Aussie greats of old (Aaron Baddeley winning the Aussie Open at 19) and the other greats from around the world that came to Australian in the Northern Hemisphere winter. The problem is that golfers today have very little allegiance to anything other than themselves and their bank accounts. That may force the hand of Australian golf organizers.

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