Kennedy, seen here following his recent in Victoria, gets a great opportunity in Florida – photo PGA of Australia
With two PGA Tour events being played concurrently this week, more Australasians than is normally the case get their opportunity to take advantage of a start close to the elite level of men’s professional golf.
The World Golf Championship Workday Championship at the Concession sees an eclectic mix of world players teeing it up in a $10.5 million event in Bradenton in the south west of Florida, while in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Open is played in Rio Grande.
In Florida, nine Australians tee it up in an event which brings together 74 players from the world ranking and a mix of players from various money lists worldwide while in Puerto Rico seven Australians and one New Zealander will play an event, the purse of which pales in comparison to that in Florida but an event that offers opportunity for several lesser PGA Tour players.
With no cut and a guaranteed minimum cheque of close to US$50,000 a significant payday is on offer whatever the outcome.
At the WGC event, Adam Scott, Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Lucas Herbert, Jason Scrivener, Brad Kennedy, Wade Ormsby and Min Woo Lee all get their chance on the Jack Nicklaus / Tony Jacklin designed layout about an hour south of Tampa.
For Scott, Smith, Leishman and Day this is just another PGA Tour (albeit with a little more prizemoney at stake) event, but for the others this represents a rare opportunity to compete against most of the world’s leading players.
Kennedy is an interesting one. Twelve months ago, Kennedy was winning his second New Zealand Open title in Queenstown and in just four events since he has won a PGA Tour of Australasia event and finished 41st at the Zozo Championship on the PGA Tour.
His game is not built around the power of the current players, but he has shown a command of his game despite struggling to keep up with the power hitters.
“It’s my second WGC. My first was way back in I think 2013 (2012 WGC-HSBC Champions) when I played in China,” said Kennedy.
“But WGCs are always great to get into. Played ZOZO (CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD last October), so it’s great to come back to the U.S. again and play another tournament.
“After I won New Zealand last year in March, I actually took six months off, didn’t touch a golf club. I just couldn’t see any progress happening and all the tournaments were being canceled, so I really just took a break. It was good to be home with the family.”
It wasn’t until December last year that I knew some events were coming up in Australia in January, February, so yeah, got myself ready for those. Fortunately won the first one back, so it was nice to get off to a good start again.
Kennedy and Min Woo Lee are in the field courtesy of their PGA Tour of Australasia efforts of late, Ormsby because of his Asian Tour performances and Scrivener and Herbert get their chance courtesy of some fine play in Europe in the last twelve months or so.
In Puerto Rico, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers, Rhein Gibson, Mark Hensby, Cameron Percy, John Senden and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson will tee it up, Allenby making his first PGA Tour appearance since this very event twelve months ago.
Allenby, at one stage ranked close to the top ten in the world is now ranked outside the top 1800 and so this represents an opportunity to get things headed in the right direction as he no doubt considers a career on the PGA Tour Champions for which he becomes eligible later this year.
Allenby has won four PGA Tour titles but the last of those came at Riviera Country Club twenty years ago and having made the cut in just two of his latest nineteen starts this week offers a litmus test for him.
It is good, however, to see the four-time Australian PGA and twice Australian Open champion back competing again.
Both events off opportunity for some of Australia’s emerging stars but they also offer the chance to resurrect a career in the case of Allenby, Hensby, Chalmers and Senden.
There will be much interest in just how such a generous line-up of Australians perform this week in both Florida and Puerto Rico.