Analysis of the respective records of Peter Lonard and Jason Day shows that they shared a two-year period when they were closer to unbeatable. But as they face off in our continuing quest to identify Australia’s Greatest Golfer, there can only be one winner.
In the year that Day stamped himself as a major champion at the 2015 US PGA Championship he won a further four PGA TOUR titles and climbed to the No.1 ranking in world golf. He backed that up the following year with three further PGA TOUR wins, including a World Golf Championships victory and The Players Championship crown at TPC Sawgrass.
While those performances are relatively fresh in our mind, some forget just how dominant Lonard was within Australian golf shortly after the turn of the century.
Joining the professional ranks in 1989, Lonard enjoyed only moderate success before being struck down with Ross River Fever, an affliction that caused eye troubles and saw him take up a position in the pro shop at Oatlands Golf Club in Sydney.
Lonard spent three years working as a club pro before rejoining the PGA Tour of Australasia in spectacular fashion, winning the 1997 Ericsson Masters, finishing second at the Johnnie Walker Classic and tied for third at the Canon Challenge to clinch the 1996/97 Order of Merit.
His first victory of the new millennium came at the 2000 Ford South Australian Open and while he claimed the ANZ Tour Championship the following year, it was a two-year stretch beginning in December 2002 that established Lonard’s place within Australian golf folklore.
Possessing a short, powerful action that earned him a reputation as one of the best ball-strikers on tour, Lonard won the Australian PGA Championship (a title he shared with Jarrod Moseley) and MasterCard Masters in successive weeks and a year later won the first of consecutive Australian Open titles at Moonah Links.
In 2004 he won Australia’s two most prestigious tournaments in back-to-back weeks, successfully defending his Australian Open title at The Australian and claiming his second PGA Championship at Coolum.
Although best remembered for his victories on home soil, Lonard also enjoyed a fruitful eight-year stint on the PGA TOUR, winning more than $US9.5 million in prize money and rising to No.23 in the world on the back of his victory at the MCI Heritage at Harbor Town and a tie for third at the Bank of America Colonial five weeks later.
Career wins: 12
PGA TOUR wins: 1
Australasian Tour wins: 10
Australian Open: Won (2003, 2004)
Australian PGA: Won (2002, 2004, 2007)
Career wins: 17
Major wins: 1 (2015 US PGA Championship)
PGA TOUR wins: 12
Australian Open: T4 (2011)
Australian PGA: T9 (2011)