The Australian Open

The Australian Open in Sidney, Australia, begins Wednesday night our time and is bolstered this year by the Presidents Cup players who are using it for a tune-up for next week’s Cup matches. It’s being played in Melbourne at Royal Melbourne on the Composite Course which combines 12 holes from the West course and 6 holes from the East Course. The Composite Course hosted the 1998 Cup matches and is considered one of the ten best courses in the world.

But for all of that, the tournament is still about Tiger Woods. In the first instance, in how the aftermath of Steve Williams comments either blow over or not, and in the second instance, how Tiger plays. He has now had all the time since he last played in the in early October (6th through the 9th) to finally get his swing change in order.

He used the analogy in his press conference of world record and Olympic record holder in the 100 and 200 meter races, Usain Bolt. If he was hurt and coming back from an injury, he wouldn’t be at his best right away either; he would have to work his way back into it just as Tiger is doing. In other words, be patient with him. He’s happy with his progress, he’s finally able to play and practice without limitations.

He goes off the front nine at 12:10 with Jason Day and Robert Allenby. This is a good pairing for him; Day is the hot young Aussie talent that’s been making great strides on the PGA Tour and idolizes Tiger, and Allenby is also an Aussie who lives in Orlando at Isleworth, Tiger’s former home community.

Immediately in front of them at 12:00 is Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Aussie John Senden. This supposedly is a proximity test for Steve Williams and Tiger: we wouldn’t want to pair them together, but how about in a contiguous pairing?

At 12:20 is Stuart Appleby, Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley.

And at 12:30 is Hunter Mahan, Aussie Craig Perry and John Daly. So Daly has obviously been granted another sponsor’s exemption and the committee has graciously given him a tee time with luminaries rather than lesser lights.

On the back nine at 7:15, we have Geoff Ogilvy, Bill Haas and Bubba Watson. (I always have a soft spot in my heart for Ogilvy because he lives in Scottsdale and is a very smart and thoughtful man.)

At 7:25, Dustin Johnson, Greg Norman and Aaron Baddeley. Norman is the Captain for the International Team, of course.

At 7:35, Fred Couples, John Cook and Aussie Peter Senior. This is the “old guys” pairing with all three playing great golf on the Champions Tour this year. And of course, Couples is the Captain of the United States team and Cook is his just appointed assistant to replace Michael Jordan.

And that, as they say is that. Oh we do have David Toms as the only headliner in the 7:45 group who on merit, perhaps should have been swapped with John Daly. But that’s just fantasy league dreaming: he has a good tee time when that whole thing is beyond his control.

In talking about these pairings, I was a little surprised that there were not more Presidents Cup players in the tournament, for as many as you would expect if the teams were using it as a warm-up. Well, some of them are playing opposite in the Barclays Singapore Open including Phil Mickelson. So the teamwork begins next week.

In any event, this should be a very entertaining and revelatory tournament and it is only bolstered by the fact that it will be coming to us from one of the world’s great golf courses.

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