AUSTRALIA’S big summer of golf is taking further shape with Presidents Cup captain Ernie Els, Paul Casey and Louis Oosthuizen now confirmed for the Australian Open in Sydney while fellow contestant Cameron Smith will be hoping to end a busy three weeks with his third straight Australian PGA Championship title.
Els, Casey and Oosthuizen, owners of three of the sweetest swings in world golf, will contest the open at The Australian Golf Club from December 5-8, the week before the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
The Aussie PGA will return to the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast the following week, with Smith set to play in all three events.
Jason Day and Marc Leishman have already been confirmed for Sydney (Day is odds on to be named by Els as a Presidents Cup captain’s pick), while Adam Scott will be in Melbourne (but probably not Sydney) and also Royal Pines.
We’re yet to hear if Tiger Woods or any of his US Presidents Cup team will be in Sydney but surely we can expect some to show.
Englishman Casey, a bit of a bolter under the circumstances, will be making his Australian Open debut, as will Oosthuizen, the third qualifier for the International Team. The popular South African was the 2010 Open champion and has also been runner-up at each of the other major championships. He’s currently ranked No.22 in the world.
Casey has been a champion on both sides of the Atlantic, including two victories on the PGA Tour in the past 18 months and has seven top-five finishes in the US this season. He finished in third place at the recent Tour Championship and is currently ranked No.17 in the world.
Four-time major champion Els has previously played in an Australian Open in 2001 at The Grand on the Gold Coast, where he finished third behind Stuart Appleby.
“It’s one of those trophies in world golf that has such an incredible history,” Els said.
“I love playing national Opens and it’s been unfortunate that I haven’t been able to play for the Australian title more often with dates often clashing in South Africa.
“But this year the planets have lined up and I’m really looking forward to playing in Sydney.”
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt said the addition of these three champions was another great coup for the tournament.
“I think if you’ve watched all of these guys swing a club at some point in their careers, you’ve probably longed to be able to do it just like one of them,” Pitt said.
“Now all three are going to be in Sydney and all Australian golf fans can witness the magic first hand.
“We’re really excited about the field that’s being assembled and will announce more big names in coming weeks.”
The tournament is being hosted by The Australian GC for a record 21st time and will be telecast live on the Seven network.
Tickets for the AO are now on sale. Visit www.ticketek.com and search “Open golf”
Smith hoping to break 100 year drought
While Smith’s international career continues to ascend, at home he is hoping to create history by becoming the first person in more than 100 years to win three consecutive Australian PGA Championship titles.
The 26-year-old says he is elated to come back to his home state to compete against a world class field, including Presidents Cup teammate Adam Scott.
“I can’t wait to come back to the Gold Coast and play in front of a home crowd to try and win three Australian PGA Championships in a row. It would be the perfect way to wrap up my year,” Smith said.
The passionate Queenslander, who dons maroon on the final day of each tournament, is vying to become the first player since Aussie golf pioneer Dan Soutar to win the Joe Kirkwood Cup – Australia’s oldest pro golf trophy – three times in a row.
The Scotland-born Soutar won the inaugural Australian PGA Championship in 1905, then went on to claim the 1906 and 1907 titles.
“I’m eager to finish the year on a high by emulating the feats of one of the game’s legends,” Smith said.
“But it certainly won’t come easily. Every year the PGA Champs showcases our country’s incredibly talented crop of golfers, all who will be desperate to etch their names into the Joe Kirkwood Cup.”
PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman expects the tens of thousands attending this year’s Australian PGA Championship to get behind Smith’s history-making pursuit.
“We are delighted Cameron has decided to return to our feature event. He’s a fan favourite who will have a lot of supporters cheering him on to become a triple winner of the Australian PGA Championship,” Mr Kirkman said.
“Cam is trying to do what some of the industry’s luminaries like Greg Norman, Kel Nagle and Robert Allenby were unable to do.”
“A third consecutive victory at RACV Royal Pines Resort, one of Queensland’s finest golf courses, would put him in rarefied company.”
The Australian PGA Championship is a week-long festival of golf, with plenty of action-packed, family-friendly activities to entertain fans beyond the ropes.
The famous Gold Coast beaches will again be brought to the greens, with the Oakley Gold Coast Beach Club taking centre stage at the lucrative 16th hole, the home of the Soniq Million Dollar Hole (SMDH).
The SMDH is moving to Saturday this year where a group of lucky fans will have the opportunity to try their luck at hitting a hole-in-one on the par-3 hole to win $1 million.
The new take on the SMDH will elevate the hole to a new level, with amateur golfers integrated into to the field for their shot of a lifetime.
For more information, head to championship.pga.org.au.