Paul Casey – seen here in one of his previous visits to Australia – SMP Images
This week’s Emirates Australian Open brings together one of the stronger fields assembled for the event in several years.
Sure it might not boast the likes of Jordan Spieth who won twice in three years in 2014 and 2016 but it is the depth of the field that makes it one of the strongest in recent times.
The event’s positioning in the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule ahead of the Presidents Cup has opened the opportunity for several of those in the International Team for Royal Melbourne Golf Club next week to play in Sydney and while some may well have played either way, the likes of Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, C.T Pan, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith will benefit by an outing the week before.
It would have been even stronger but for the late withdrawal due to injury of Jason Day.
Their entries certainly strengthen both the field and the interest in the event but along with them, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia add yet another dimension to what is shaping as an intriguing contest.
The defending champion is Abraham Ancer whose victory last year was perhaps a surprise given his ranking of 96th in the world on his arrival in Sydney last year but in the twelve months since he has elevated his standing in the game to number 38 and he begins the week as the 6th highest ranked player in the field.
Ahead of Ancer in terms of world ranking order this week are Casey, Scott, Oosthuizen, Leishman and Garcia but the Mexican has put together several good finishes on the PGA Tour in 2019 including a runner-up finish at the Northern Trust Open and importantly has played well in his two last starts with top tens in China and Mexico.
This, of course, is a different venue in 2019 to that which Ancer won over last year, his victory coming at the adjacent Lakes Golf Club, but the Australian Golf Club is one of Australia’s best tournament courses and typically fine players win around the eastern suburbs of Sydney layout.
Paul Casey begins the week as the leading world ranked player in the field having completed a season which has seen him advance to 14th in the world after starting the year in 22nd place.
He has developed into a very consistent player in 2019 with seven top 5 finishes worldwide in 2019 including wins at the Valspar Championship in the US and at the Porsche European Open in Germany.
Casey has shown a capacity to win anywhere in the world including at the ANZ Championship in Sydney in 2003 and it would be no surprise if he was to contend at worst this week.
Adam Scott has won his national championship just once and that was ten years ago but he has not played the event in recent years, so his return is a welcome one for the tournament and Australian golf fans.
Scott is the second highest ranked player in the field and while yet to record a win in 2019 he has played very solidly in recent months with top tens in more than half of his last twelve starts and while it has been a month since his last start 11th at the WGC HSBC Champions event in China he does space his events and a good showing would not surprise.
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith add further strings to the Australian bow, Smith going so close to winning the event three years ago when losing a playoff to Jordan Spieth at Royal Sydney in 2016 and then when 4th the following year at the Australian Golf Club and 10th last year. He has won the last two Australian PGA Championships so his form at home is hard to fault.
Leishman is now Australia’s second highest ranked player and although he has not won in 2018, he has continued to play well.
Oosthuizen has not missed a cut in his last eighteen starts and his recent 3rd place in China and 6th place at the Nedbank Challenge suggests his game is peaking for both this week and next.
So the 2019 Emirates Australian Open offers plenty of interest for golf fans both in Sydney and across the world and might well
It appears as if it will be the last time Emirates will play host sponsor of the event but it might well be one of the best during their welcome tenure in that role.
The first hole at the Australian Golf Club