Play is already underway in the Australian PGA Championship at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, with 10 New Zealand players in the field. Ryan Fox and Danny Lee drew early tee times, and will be followed later by Martin Pettigrew (who gained a start through his Australian Senior PGA victory last week), Michael Hendry, Harry Bateman, Mark Brown, Michael Long, Josh Geary, Ben Campbell and David Klein.
There are many chances in the field of 156, which includes a number of European Tour players headed by Ian Poulter, Stephen Gallacher and Eduardo Molinari, US PGA Championship winner Y E Yang, PGA Tour player Harold Varner III, and a strong Australian contingent including Adam Scott, Marcus Fraser, Mark Leishman, John Senden, Greg Chalmers and Scott Hend. The redesigned Royal Pines course proved particularly challenging last year, with even par being enough to secure the title for Nathan Holman.
However, a lot of attention will be paid to the current two leaders in the 2016 PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit: Matthew Griffin and Michael Hendry. The PGA Championship is the final event on the OOM, and the first two placegetters get entry to the lucrative WGC events in 2017. As things stand, Griffin ($230k) and Hendry ($223k) are well clear of the 3rd player, but with first prize money of $A 270,000 and with the runner up receiving $A 150,000, there is plenty of scope for changes. A victory for Ryan Fox could for example propel him to the top of the OOM.
Either way, it would be fantastic to see a New Zealander holding the Kirkwood Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Tiger is back!
After a couple of false starts and an absence of 15 months from the Tour, Tiger Woods returns to tournament golf in the Hero World Challenge, in Albany, Bermuda. The select field of 24 includes most of the 2016 USA Ryder Cup Team (but not Phil Mickelson), and a handful of international stars spearheaded by Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Hideki Matsuyama. Tiger tees it up alongside Patrick Reed tomorrow morning our time.
Lydia to change equipment
Lydia Ko will start the 2017 LPGA season with a new caddy (yet to be named) and new equipment. After playing Callaway in recent years, Lydia will move to boutique equipment manufacturer PXG, whose mission is to “unlock the potential of new and existing technologies to develop the finest golf clubs on the planet, without regard to cost.” Cost is hardly likely to be an issue for Lydia, but any equipment change usually has some initial consequences (for example Rory McIlroy and his change to Nike), so it will be intriguing to see how she performs in the early part of the year.
PGA Championship to move?
The schedule of golf tournaments around the world has always been a movable feast, with the exception of the four Majors, which have occurred at pretty much the same dates and in the same sequence for decades. The return of golf to the Olympics in 2016 changed this, forcing the US PGA Championship to move forward to accommodate the Rio event.
This has prompted the PGA of America to look at a more drastic shift to May, to become the 2nd Major Championship after The Masters. This is likely to cause a clash with the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which also takes place in May. There’s sure to be plenty of noise ahead on this one – watch this space!