27 Jan 2021 | Professional golf | Feature stories |

Clayton: Rosebud takes its place in limelight

by Mike Clayton

Geoff Ogilvy Players Series image
Geoff Ogilvy is the host at Rosebud this week. Photo: Getty

With the long-ago removal of hope we’d see either the men’s or the women’s Australian Opens or the PGA Championship, Australian professional golf arrives at unlikely Rosebud Country Club for its first 72-hole event in too long -- the Players Series starting tomorrow. Geoff Ogilvy’s name is on the tournament poster, something befitting a US Open champion, but his golf is perhaps more ceremonial than serious as he approaches his mid-40s. He doesn’t seem that old, and his swing is as full and fluid as ever, but I remember when Peter Thomson was 45 and he seemed as old as the hills (to 18-year-old me) in golf terms. Of course, he wasn’t and at 54 he was still good enough to win nine times in a season on the American Senior Tour. Nor is Ogilvy the oldest in the field. The remarkable 1983 Australian Open champion Peter Fowler is still going around and still preparing as if this was the Open Championship and he was 24. Only Bernard Langer is in Fowler’s league. No one ever has played more rounds of professional golf and here on the Mornington Peninsula he begins his 44th year as a pro. Most have long ago lost any measure of enthusiasm for the grind of travel let alone the effort it takes to keep up with young kids driving it 30 yards further – and its testament to his work ethic he’s only that far behind and not 70 or 80. The tournament mixes men and women playing for the same prize, but with the women playing from tees further forward in an attempt to even things up. It will be interesting how Su Oh, the highest credentialed woman in the event, fares against the men and whether it’s indeed possible to arrange a course so things are fairly even. This is something of an experiment and there may be better ways to do it (like changing the par so a men’s round of 70 equals a woman’s 72), but this week will tell us more. The course though is the biggest surprise for many. The Mornington Peninsula is now a mecca for golf, one now so good it almost rivals the quality of the Melbourne sandbelt only an hour up the road. The National with its three Peninsula courses, St Andrews Beach, The Dunes, Moonah Links, Portsea and Sorrento are all better known but the North Course at Rosebud plays over some brilliantly undulating, sandy terrain and only an own goal by the members 20 years ago made the course one most overlooked. They built another course (The South) on land not as good then mixed and matched the four nines, something only serving to confuse. The North, because it was played so sparingly, completely lost its identity. But the mistake is now rectified and the first-time players this week have almost universally said: "Why hasn’t anyone told us about this place?" It is beyond belief neither of the two major golf magazine ranking lists fail to have it amongst the top 100 courses in the country when the evidence of this week is it should be well inside the top 50 and with good work, significantly better again. The 11th hole, for example is a perfectly acceptable short hole but it’s never going to make a list of the best 100 short holes in the country because it spectacularly fails to use the amazing sandy creek bed 20 metres short of the green as a hazard. If the green was moved down the edge of the creek it’d be one of the best 20 par threes in the country and, more importantly, a thrilling hole to play. The 15th tee, too is poorly positioned but these are minor errors and once rectified the course will soar up the rankings and earn the respect it deserves. It is not long by today’s standards, and the trio of par fives are easily reachable making the strict par 68 and not the 71 on the scorecard. Wedges will be overly represented as approach shot clubs and only a big wind will drive the scores higher than we might expect. Either way, this will be a fun tournament with plenty of good golf worthy of observation.

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