Fred Couples possesses an outstanding golfing resume, but he’s in denial if he believes local knowledge is not just an advantage, but a necessity at Royal Melbourne.
Just as the tournament got underway, Couples, the now two-time US team captain, claimed that the Australian course was a ball-strikers course, not the kind of course “you need to know.”
However, the conditions at Royal Melbourne– heavy heat, swirling winds and extreme firmness from tee to green– make this a foreign battle (literally and figuratively) for the Americans.
By contrast, the International Team is more familiar with the environment, especially considering that five of its members– Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day, Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott– are natives.
Aside from Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, no Americans have real, competitive experience at Royal Melbourne, a fact that, according to Robert Allenby at least, could prove telling over the course of the event.
“It’s just one of those golf courses that you have to see first and learn how to play it second. You can’t play the course blind. You have to know it. The Composite Course is a golf course in strategy.
“I know you need strategy on all courses, but on the Composite Course, if you get too aggressive, you can make a double-bogey or a triple-bogey in a heartbeat. Even when you hit a good shot.”
Not only do the five Aussies know the course like the back of their hand, but Ogilvy grew up about a driver’s distance away from the clubhouse and Ernie Els shot a 60 there (still a record) during the 2004 Heineken Classic.
The International Team’s Captain, Greg Norman, also has a ton of experience at the Sandbelt course, saying:
“The golf course is defenseless if there’s no wind and a little bit of moisture in the air or on the ground, and then if the wind gets up, which it’s predicted to be on Friday, up to 30 mile an hour winds, this place will eat your lunch. “
For a course that doesn’t have any water hazards or out of bounds, it manages to be incredibly intimidating.
Blind tee shots call for both confidence and course knowledge. The variety of dunes and dense shrubbery surrounding greens demands precise approach play, but more than anything, caution on the greens is a must.
It’s worth noting that, even though 24 of the best golfers in the world are competing this week, none look like they are putting aggressively.
Geoff Ogilvy, the member and resident expert of Royal Melbourne, believes,
“It’s definitely a golf course that rewards local knowledge, there’s [sic] a lot of places on the golf course that are bad to hit it, and there’s a lot of places on the course that are good to hit it, and they’re not always obvious.
“It’s only learned through playing the course. So I think the International Team will have a slight advantage because we’ve got more players on the team that have played Royal Melbourne before and have played Sandbelt courses before.”