Europeans tipped to raid Royal Queensland - PGA of Australia

Europeans tipped to raid Royal Queensland

Seasoned pro Scott Hend has predicted a bomber’s raid on Royal Queensland by a trio of top Europeans who will also have to conquer unfamiliar grainy greens at the Fortinet Australian PGA.

Reinstating the event on the DP World Tour for the first time since pre-pandemic 2020 has elevated the field as well as prizemoney to $2 million for the popular tournament’s start on Thursday. 

Adrian Meronk is Poland’s first DP World Tour winner after his success at this year’s Irish Open. 

Danish twins Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard (pictured) are just 21 but already share five DP World Tour titles between them. 

Rasmus’s breakthrough victory at the Mauritius Open in 2018 made him the third youngest winner in the tour’s history at just 18. 

Hend’s time playing in Europe has given him a good grasp of the capabilities the trio will bring to RQ this week. 

“Adrian hits it miles. How far Rasmus hits it off the tee is ridiculous,” said Hend, renowned for his own power driving qualities at their age. 

“The brothers are prodigious talents and there will be a Ryder Cup player in that family.” 

The brothers want to make it two. 

In all, 27 DP World Tour players took up spots from the 60 offered into the Australian PGA field. This has opened up more spots to Australasian Tour players because the Joburg Open in South Africa has also drawn DP World Tour players this week. 

Going low at Royal Queensland is not as simple as overpowering the course. Leading Australian Min Woo Lee used all his firepower when the Australian PGA returned to RQ in January and was constantly left shaking his head. 

He may have finished joint fourth at nine-under-par after finishing 69-68 but he’d tell you he should have shot far lower for the week. 

The course’s run-off areas around the putting surfaces and the grain to the 328 Bermuda greens are a distinct challenge. 

Open champion Cameron Smith was testing lob wedge, putter and bump-and-runs from the challenging hollows in his own Monday practice round because there are multiple ways to handle delicate shots around the greens. 

Hend, 49, is in no doubt just where Smith rates on the world stage. 

“He’s arguably the best in the world in my eyes and I don’t need the world rankings to tell me that. He’s got the game to win multiple majors,” Hend said. 

“It’s great to be back at RQ with the likes of Scotty (Adam Scott), Leish (Marc Leishman), Cam and so on. We’ve got a very good group of young guys coming through in Australia too.” 

Hend missed keeping his card for the new DP World Tour season. He could have kept status on the European Challenge Tour but elected to let that lapse this week. 

He will instead flip is focus in 2023 to the Asian Tour where he is a 10-time winner. 

Monday pre-qualifying in the Brisbane heat produced some strong storylines of their own with three spots up at both Keperra and Wynnum. 

Jim Mee, the RQ club champion in 2018, rolled in five birdies in a row en route to his superb eight-under-par 64 to lead the qualifiers at Keperra. Aiden Didone (67) and Chris Crabtree (67) also won their way into the field from a four-way play-off for two spots. 

At Wynnum, there was a reminder of the enduring class of Andre Stolz. The veteran may be 52 but he found six birdies and an eagle on the par five 12th to post a seven-under 63 to lead qualifying there. Brenton Fowler (64) and Mitchell Smith (65) also won through.

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