30 Jun 2020 | Men's Australian Open | Feature stories | Professional golf |
Great Australian Moments 19: Allenby's triple crown
by Martin Blake
For three weeks in the summer of 2005, Robert Allenby ruled Australian golf.
Allenby won the hat-trick of big Australian tournaments in consecutive weeks, starting with the Australian Open at Moonah Links outside Melbourne, then the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum and clinching the so-called Triple Crown with his win of the Australian Masters at Huntingdale.
No one had previously won the big three Australian tournaments in the same year, and with the demise of the Masters in 2015, it seems likely that Allenby will remain the only player to achieve this feat. Greg Chalmers (in 2011) and Adam Scott (2013) won the first two legs, but missed on the clincher. Needless to say, it is scarcely easy.
It sits as the greatest achievement of one of Australia’s best-ever players, alongside his four wins on the US PGA Tour.
Allenby was close to the peak of his career as a player in 2005 and the Australian Golf Union was in the midst of its since-abandoned experiment of making the home of the Open at Moonah Links, designed by Peter Thomson on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. The course was long and exposed to the wind, but in the Thursday calm, Allenby shot 63 to set up his second Open win.
Ultimately, he limped in for a one-shot win on the Sunday. With a three-shot lead going into the final day, he had stunned the media by suggesting that he might have to miss the final round because of a hand injury sustained when he opened a port-a-loo door on the course during his third round.
"The nerve went in my middle finger," he said on the eve of the final round. "I had no power, no feeling. I can't guarantee I'll be here tomorrow."
But the Victorian, who’d grown up playing pennant golf not so far away at Yarra Yarra, turned up on Sunday and ground through a difficult final day. He knew that he could not be beaten once runner-up Paul Sheehan failed to make his birdie putt at the 72nd hole, admitting later that he “fell in over the line”.
It was a thin field in terms of internationals, and Allenby made the point that local was good. “We don’t need international players,” he said at the presentation. “We don’t need to pay appearance money to attract them all.”
The next week at the Hyatt Coolum resort, Allenby appeared to be over his injury, and he played brilliant golf only to be almost usurped by Mat Goggin’s final-day 63. Goggin posted 17-under par and waited, and Allenby needed birdie at the final hole to win outright. Hitting a pure eight iron to the back, left pin, and then draining the short putt, he completed the mission.
At Huntingdale in pursuit of the hat-trick, Allenby was nervous as he sought to create his little piece of history. He found himself in a playoff against Bubba Watson, the American left-hand bomber who would later win a Masters at Augusta National, but back then, a young man with a temper.
Watson missed a short putt for par on the playoff hole, Huntingdale’s 18th, and Allenby had the Triple Crown as well as retaining his unbeaten playoff record. “It's been an amazing three weeks and I'm proud of myself for hanging in there and doing what was needed,’’ he said.
Allenby at his peak was a seriously good player in all conditions, ranked as high as 12th in the world at one point. He was a polarising figure with his superb golf and his wonderful charity work on the one hand, and his penchant for chewing up caddies and upsetting people on the other.
But regardless of what you think of him, he has those three weeks in 2005, and they are commemorated by the set of flags, framed on his wall at home. It was a first. And, probably, a last.
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