Clayton: Cam, the cut and a course of contrasts - PGA of Australia

Clayton: Cam, the cut and a course of contrasts

When he was one of the very best players in the world, Severiano Ballesteros played a practice round with Englishman DJ Russell at the Lancôme Trophy in Paris, writes Mike Clayton.

It was a classy tournament, one everyone enjoyed playing because Paris in the autumn is, well, Paris in the autumn. Even if the course wasn’t great, it was a limited field and a fabulous week.

“I love this tournament,” Ballesteros told Russell. “No cut.”

Russell, like most tour players, concerned himself with the cut because making it meant a cheque and missing it was a lot of effort for no reward. We all assumed the half-way cut was something of no concern to the great Ballesteros but there it was. He had the same fears as the rest of us. Not that he missed too many – not in the years before he so sadly lost his game, anyway.

This week at Royal Queensland those looking for Friday night airline reservations to Melbourne and the ISPS HANDA Australian Open shot two-over par. Those making it right on the line included Presidents Cup man Cameron Davis.

The brilliant young Dane, Rasmus Hojgaard, needed a only a five from the middle of the 18th fairway with a short iron in his hand but managed to instead make a six, missing from three feet to finish off his disaster. Off to Melbourne, where if he’s got any interest in golf architecture he would try and swing a weekend game at Royal Melbourne.

On my shoulder this week is Elvis Smylie’s bag and despite some very nice play from tee to green he bogeyed the difficult fifth hole (our 14th) to drop to even par.

Players and caddies don’t need to look at the scores to know what the ‘number’ is. We assumed without even mentioning it, incorrectly as it turned out, the line would be even par. And it would have been, had the wind not come up just as we finished.

He missed a five-footer for a birdie at the seventh which would have provided some breathing room but a safe iron found the eighth green and from 253 metres into the wind at the ninth he ripped an amazing 3-wood to 30 feet and made a four for 141. And, yes, the ball goes too far – but you knew that already. It was a hell of a shot though.

My old design partners, John Sloan, Bruce Grant and I redesigned the old course 15 years ago and people still ask about what we were trying to do with what is something of an unusual course.

With the exception for the 14th – one of the few holes retained from the original course – the fairways are hugely wide. Rather than build hazards down the sides of the holes and ask golfers to hit between them, we put bunkers in a direct line to the hole at quite a few holes.

One of the lessons of the great short par-4 10th hole at Royal Melbourne is the bunker embedded into the dune on the left controls all the play but very few top-line players ever go in there.

The bunker at the fourth at Barnbougle Dunes is a direct copy of the principle and there are more than a handful of centre-line bunkers at Royal Queensland which control the play but don’t see much action. Most players think hazards are things to punish poor shots, but the best courses are filled with hazards designed to make the golf more interesting.

I suspect Ballesteros would have enjoyed this course because, like Royal Melbourne, a course he won this championship on 41 years ago, there is space from the tee but also firm greens rewarding precise irons.

One of Seve’s old caddies, Pete Coleman, once described Bernhard Langer’s short game as “mustard” and it’s an equally appropriate description of Cameron Smith’s ability to play around the green.

Likely few putt or score as well as the Queenslander and his 68-65 leaves him a single shot behind Jason Scrivener, the Perth man who accumulates a lot of prizemoney without attracting much attention, and a long way from the cut-line.

Smith though is the man to beat from here – but making that a prediction hardly takes much insight.

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