MARCUS FRASER’S delayed start to his European Tour season is a boon for the Victorian PGA Championship this week with the 38 year old to tee it up at Huntingdale Golf Course.
Fraser is the highest ranked player in the field and hasn’t played in the event for more than 13 years.
With his usual European Tour schedule keeping him far from home early in the year, Fraser has elected to miss the desert swing and instead be part of his daughter starting school in Melbourne this week.
He joins a field that includes Peter Lonard, a 12 time winner around the world, Adam Blyth, 2016 PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year, Matthew Griffin, 2016 PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner, and defending champion Ashley Hall.
“Every tournament we play is important but it’s nice to play a tournament so close to home and especially the Victorian PGA Championship,” Fraser said this week.
“When I first started out I played a fair few of them, so it’s nice I can come back and play, it’s not often I get the chance being overseas all the time. I am excited to be part of the week.
“As soon as I was having a week off and I saw the schedule it made perfect sense to play.
“It’s my daughters first day of school on Thursday, it’s an exciting time and you feel like you miss out on a lot of the things they do growing up but first day of school really means a lot. I really wanted to be there for her like I was for our son Archie.
“I had seven weeks off and the Vic PGA is a nice way to get back into playing and a good warm up to get ready for the next few weeks, it’s going to be pretty busy,” added Fraser, who is playing the next three weeks including the new ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth.
“The first five weeks there wasn’t much golf played but the last few weeks I have started to get up and running, playing a few holes and doing some practice. I will hopefully work out where I am at this week.”
Despite his lack of preparation, as the highest ranked player in the field, Fraser will start as the tournament favourite on a course which has been kind to him in the past.
“Given the amount of work I have done over the last seven weeks, I don’t think it’s appropriate to be labelled the favourite. The field is going to be strong and I am just trying to get out there and put a club in my hands.
“But it’s nice to come back to Huntingdale, I have always played well here, I am looking forward to the week,” the Olympian said.
“I lost in a playoff here to Rod Pampling at the Masters one year; I had three or four other top-10s here at the Masters. It’s always been pretty nice to me this golf course so hopefully there is more of the same this week.
Fraser will head from the Victorian PGA Championship to Malaysia to defend the most recent of his three European Tour victories; the Maybank Championship.
“Next week is going to be an experience; I haven’t had the chance to defend much. Last year was such a great week that I am looking forward to getting back up there and being a defending champion,” added Fraser.
“But first this week, I want to put myself into contention. I feel like the practice I have done the last two weeks has been pretty good. I think more than anything I will get out there to see where I am at.”
Home course advantage for defending Champion Hall
Defending champion Ashley Hall is coming off the best season of his career to date which was launched with a thrilling win at Huntingdale in 2016.
After entering the tournament with virtually no status, Hall took out last year’s Championship with a playoff victory over David McKenzie marking his first win in six years and the beginning of a fantastic season for the Huntingdale local.
“It was great start it really spurred me on and I thought I could have a good year, then it was a bit rough in the middle where I had to stick with it,” Hall said.
“The end of the year was really good and it turned out to be an awesome year, it certainly turned out to be my best ever.”
The conclusion of his season culminated in another playoff at the Emirates Australian Open with none other than World Number 6 Jordan Speith, who went on to win the tournament.
“I’ve been in a lot of playoffs, both times I’ve won the Vic PGA in a playoff, I’ve also lost two in the U.S and lost one in New Zealand so it’s nothing new,” added Hall.
“The playoff at the Australian Open was absolutely amazing, not many better settings than the 18th hole at Royal Sydney especially with so many people yelling and screaming.
“I would’ve loved to have hit a better putt but it is what it is.”
From losing his card on the Web.com Tour at the end of 2015 to taking the Australian Open down to the wire with one of the game’s greatest players, book-ended a somewhat bizarre season for Hall who, like many other Professionals on Tour, began from the bottom in 2016.
“It’s a funny game that we all love, I started from scratch again through Q-School, but it happens all the time, we just saw Todd Sinnott last week go from Q-School to winning the Myanmar Open on the Asian Tour.
“It proves that everyone is really good and anyone can win any tournament, that’s the way I’m going to think playing in some of the bigger tournaments this year.”
One of those bigger tournaments includes Hall’s second visit to Royal Birkdale for The Open in July later this year, he’ll be using the upcoming events in Australia to fine tune his game on a variety of courses leading in to golf’s biggest stage.
“These two tournaments (Vic PGA and Vic Open) are pretty important because they’re played on bouncy courses especially next week at the Vic Open where it’ll be very windy,” Hall said.
“I’ll be searching for places to play that are windy and have some bounce; I went on a golf break during the break down to Tasmania and played in some wind at King Island and Barnbougle so I might even make another trip down there because it’s so different to what we normally play in.
“I’ve got half an eye on that week in July, everything is already organised and it’s always on my mind.”
Hall spoke on his chances of going back-to-back this week at Huntingdale where he believes his knowledge of his home course will set him apart from the pack this week.
“I know the place backwards so I’m not stressed about getting some course knowledge I certainly feel like I’ve got the most out of anyone in the field.”
The Victorian PGA Championship will be played from 2-4 February at Huntingdale Golf Club with a field of 92 players vying for a prize purse of AU$100,000.
The winner will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and become fully exempt on to the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus a further season.Victorian PGA Championship Leaderboard