A very happy Hannah Green with her Greg Norman Medal – PGA of Australia
It has been another good year for Australasian professional golf, the undoubted highlight being the stunning performance of West Australian, Hannah Green, to win not only win her first LPGA Tour title but, in doing so, becoming just the third Australian female after Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson to win a major championship.
Green’s win at the KPMG PGA Championship in Chaska in Minnesota in June was achieved after a nail-biting final few holes, surviving a mid round crisis and getting up and down from a greenside bunker at the 72nd hole to hold off a fast finish from former world number one, Sung Hyun Park.
All this in just Green’s second season on the LPGA Tour but it was not something Green was expecting so early in her LPGA Tour career.
“I didn’t have any plans to win any tournaments,” she said recently. “So yes, you go out there trying to do your best, but on my goal list, none of them was to say win a major, win a tournament. It was pretty much just trying to stay as consistent throughout the season.
“Last year I missed 10 cuts and I just wanted to make sure that I was making the cuts, but also finishing better on the results side when I did make the cuts. So obviously besides the two wins I did achieve that, so I’m really happy.
“It wasn’t too up and down a year this year. There was some really poor results, I think I shot in the 80s the first major of the year, so there was some low points this year, but obviously some real high points, too.”
To cap off her remarkable season Green was named the winner of the Greg Norman Medal as Australia’s best performer in 2019 during a dinner at the Australian PGA Championship.
Minjee Lee has finished the year in 8th place on the LPGA Tour money list, earning more than US$1 million for the 4th consecutive year and ending 2019 in 9th place in the Rolex World Rankings. She finished well ahead of Hannah Green in 22nd place in that standing.
There were other highlights of course. Adam Scott might have taken all year and some 45 months to finally win an event when successful at the Australian PGA Championship, but even without the victory he improved from 41st in the world ranking at the beginning of 2019 to 18th before the Australian PGA win and eventually finished in 13th place.
The improved standing was a reflection on an extremely consistent year, perhaps one of his more so, recording nine top tens included in 14 top twenties in 22 starts.
Adam Scott – finally a trophy in hand
Scott knows, however, that at his level titles and trophies are of much more importance than regular cheques and consistency and said so in a pre- Australian PGA Championship press conference.
“Yeah, it was a very consistent year. Of course, there are a couple weeks here or there where I didn’t play my best, but generally I played at a very high standard. There were a couple of very close calls on the PGA TOUR where I got beat by a shot and most other years I’m sure I would have had a (inaudible) score to win, but the standard is tough out there.
“However, consistency is not yielding wins and I think even the guys at the top can attest to that. You kind of have to go out and play flat out and make sure it’s your week where it all falls into place. I think the game’s changed a little bit and consistency used to be rewarded, but less so these days.
He was able to fix that issue a few days later.
Scott began the year in 4th place amongst the Australasians behind Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith and is now comfortably the leading world ranked male Australasian ahead of Leishman who is currently number 28 in the world.
In Europe, South African born West Australian, Jason Scrivener, continued his impressive but steady rise in the game with his best year ever on the European Tour. The 30-year old is yet to win in Europe but continues to build on the platforms he is creating for himself, making it into the season ending DP World Tour event in Dubai for the first time and earning more than €$1 million for the season in the process.
Jason Scrivener – headed the Australasians in Europe.
New Zealander Ryan Fox’s season was not as good as that in 2018 but importantly for the 32-year old he recorded his most important victory in the game and his first European Tour title with victory at the ISPS Handa Perth Super 6 event at Lake Karrinyup.
There was not a lot to get excited about in Fox’s performances following the win, unable to record a top ten in any of his remaining 19 starts but the breakthrough victory would see him finish as the third best Australasian in Europe behind Scrivener and Scott Hend.
Fox’s year was further enhanced by winning the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, the win in Perth the catalyst and by being named the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Player of the Year.
Hend won the European Tour’s Maybank Championship in May but like Fox there was not much to get enthused about following. He finished just one place out of a start at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in which the leading 50 players in Europe played the lucrative event.
On the Ladies European Tour, yet another West Australian, Whitney Hillier, led the Australians when she finished in a very creditable 16th place on the LET Order of Merit, her best result in her career to date.
There were no wins for the 29-year old, but she finished the year very strongly.
In Japan, Canberra’s Brendan Jones was again Australasia’s best, finishing in 16th place on the money list and just ahead of Gold Coaster Brad Kennedy.
Jones won early in the season, as he has often done, capturing the first domestic event of the Japan Tour schedule and while Kennedy didn’t win he finished the year with three top tens in his last five starts including a runner-up finish at the season ending Golf Nippon Series event which involves the leading 30 money winners.
Brendan Jones – again the leading Australasian in Japan
Gold Coast based, Anthony Quayle, was another standout amongst the Australasians in Japan, making it all the way to the Golf Nippon Series event in just his second season while special mention must also go to Japan Tour rookie, Dylan Perry, who also impressed when finishing 36th on the money list in his first year in the professional ranks.
On the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, Sarah Kemp was named Player of the Year courtesy of her stunning start to the year which saw her finish runner-up at the Vic Open and 10th the Women’s Australian Open and regain her LPGA Tour status in the process.
Sarah Kemp – ALPGA
On the Asian Tour, Scott Hend was again the highest placed Australian when he finished runner-up to the brilliant Thai youngster Jazz Janewattanonond, the Queenslander continuing to be one of the, perhaps, unheralded achievers in Australian golf.
Also in Asia for much of the year was Victorian Zach Murray whose win at the New Zealand Open was not only an official win on the Australasian Tour but in Asia also.
The win in Queenstown saw Murray earn enough money to finish runner-up on the 2019 PGA Tour of Australasia money list and as the leading player on that list not otherwise exempt to the European Tour the 22-year old now has European Tour status in 2020.
So just 15 months after turning professional, Murray has status in Europe, Asia and Australasia, providing plenty of playing options in 2020.
He would also finish 8th on the Asian Tour money list although a very significant percentage of those monies were earned in Queenstown.
Zach Murray and New Zealand great Sir Bob Charles with his NZ Open trophy
On the Korn Ferry Tour in the US, Rhein Gibson and New Zealander, Tim Wilkinson, both played their way back to the PGA Tour while Ryan Ruffels and Brett Drewitt earned Korn Ferry Tour cards via the Tour School in December.
Perhaps the most unheralded performance by an Australasian in 2019, however, was that of Queenslander, Maverick Antcliff, who by winning the China Tour’s Order of Merit has earned the right to play the European Tour in 2020.
Maverick Antcliff – now has a European Tour card courtesy of his fine season in China. photo Asian Tour
And so as 2019 draws to a close, Australasian golf’s year has been highlighted by Hannah Green joining a very select club of Australian female golfers as a winner of a major title and Adam Scott moving back up the world ranking towards the elite of the game.
There were several other good performances, some career and even life changing in their own right, but Green and Scott were the standouts.
Can 2020 be even better?