Player power: Australia poised to benefit from schedule shift - PGA of Australia

Player power: Australia poised to benefit from schedule shift

It was a parade of global golf talent rarely seen on Australian shores yet golf’s revised 2020 schedule has put Australia in position to once again draw the best of the best to two iconic tournament venues this summer.

Although the dates for the Australian Open at Kingston Heath Golf Club and Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club are still to be finalised, the repositioning of golf’s three majors to potential new dates and current lack of playing opportunities opens the door to more players adding a Down Under plunder to their 2020 calendar.

Two-time Australian Open winner Matt Jones is almost certain to defend his title at Kingston Heath while 2019 champion Adam Scott and fellow PGA TOUR winners this year Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith are all on the hit list to play the PGA at Royal Queensland.

Add in European Tour winners Lucas Herbert and Min Woo Lee and a generous sprinkling of elite players from throughout the world and Australian golf has an opportunity to build on the momentum generated by last December’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and our players since.

Players on the PGA TOUR, European Tour and Asian Tour in particular have been without a tournament to play in since the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship on March 13 while a start date for the 2020 Japan Golf Tour season remains very much up in the air.

The announcement on Tuesday of a proposed schedule incorporating PGA TOUR events, the US PGA Championship, US Open and a November Masters at Augusta National gave golf fans hope that a meaningful season can be salvaged in the week that the year’s first major was due to be played.

Health considerations regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic aside, The Masters is now slated to conclude on Sunday, November 15 and PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman believes Australia’s two most prestigious tournaments would provide players and fans alike with a satisfying conclusion to a disrupted year.

“Depending on what happens with the PGA TOUR’s Fall Series, upon the completion of The Masters there is the opportunity to attract strong fields for both the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship,” Kirkman said.

“Given the success of the Presidents Cup last summer we’re excited to see the Australian Open return to such a highly-regarded venue as Kingston Heath Golf Club and I have no doubt players will be excited at the prospect of an Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland.

“Around those two we also have the NSW Open, WA Open, WA PGA, Gippsland Super 6 and Vic PGA tournaments before the end of the year which are very important for our player pathways.

“We’ve got to have a good chat now about lining up the dates for those seven events along with what will happen with tour schools around the world.

“We started the year off with all of those wins by our players in Asia, Europe and in America and when I arrived at THE PLAYERS Championship the excitement around what our players were doing and what we were achieving with our tour made us believe we were headed for one of our best seasons.

“The announcement of a revised schedule on Tuesday was certainly a positive indicator of what can still be achieved in 2020 and we’d love to be able to provide both our Australian players and international stars the chance to play on two of our finest courses.”

In line with government recommendations and in the interests of health for both the public and its staff, all PGA Tour of Australasia and PGA sanctioned events such as Pro-Ams and PGA Legends Tour events are currently suspended until June 1.

Kirkman says that the PGA will continue to monitor the advice and policies outlined by government and health organisations with the hope that any PGA-sanctioned events can take place as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship (August 20-23) and rescheduled PNG Open (September 24-27) are the next scheduled four-round events on the Australasian schedule to be followed by the WA PGA Championship and WA Open in successive weeks from October 8.

The Ladbrokes Pro-Am Series and Ladbrokes Legends Tour are often underwritten by the host golf club and although they are experiencing difficult times right now, Kirkman is confident that many will go ahead as planned once the season recommences.

“The regular contact that we’ve been in with clubs, even with the unknowns everyone is still keen to move forward with those events,” said Kirkman.

“Once the governments allow events to be played, when we do recommence it won’t immediately go back to normal. There may still be the physical distancing policy in place which might mean we play in groups of twos and other guidelines that we will have to follow in order to conduct an event in a safe manner.”

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