If you tuned into the golf on the weekend and saw the top shelf golf and massive crowds, you could have been forgiven for thinking the Australian Open was on a rain delay and the Seven Network was showing a classic duel between Greg Norman and Nick Faldo from the 90s.
The Australian Open was a fitting finish to what has been a wonderful month for golf in this country. Crowds flocked to the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to watch the likes of Adam Scott, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Vijay Singh and Rory McIlroy perform to their best on Aussie soil.
Not since the late 1990s has golf in this country had such a sustained period of good publicity. Sure, there have been fleeting moments with the visits of Tiger Woods and the Presidents Cup, but the last 15 years have seen the game suffer from bad publicity.
The Coolum Classic, Jacob’s Creek Open Championship and ANZ Championships of the tour could not compete with the proximity and money of the European Tour’s venture into Asia.
Golf administrators also shot themselves in the foot with ludicrous decisions, ranging from the idea of a ‘stadium hole’ to the recruitment of John Daly as a star signing.
Like Paul on the Road to Damascus, the boffins at Tour HQ finally had a vision – quality is better than quantity.
Our tour can no longer support 5-10 top money events in the hope that the top golfers would look on the nostalgia of yesteryear and rush to our shores.
It helps that Australia now has Adam Scott and Jason Day, whose respective success on the course combined with their respect for Australian Golf sees them tee off after year without pain.
What the tour did smartly, however, was utilise the prestige of the Masters, Open and PGA along with money well spent to attract some of the best to our shores.
Luring the World Cup of Golf to Australia was also a coup, with the talent on show arguably greater than the 2011 Presidents Cup.
I believe our courses also helped entice the quality players to our shores. In an era of trimmed fairways and high scoring courses, the beauty and difficulty of Australia’s great courses is enough to make the great players of the world fly out for the challenge.
Melbourne’s Sandbelt is already renowned, but the Sydney courses are also coming to the fore after years of living in the shadow of their Mexican cousins.
Royal Sydney was a brilliant venue for this year’s Open. What it lacked in length was made up for in the punishment of wayward shots and the mental challenge it presented to competitors.
While the Australasian PGA could justifiably rest on its laurels, it must do more to carve its niche into the future.
The three big tournaments need to come together and pool their appearance fee budget to bring a player like Rory McIlroy to Australia for three weeks.
Also, the PGA needs to dip into their bank account a produce a bonus for the person that can win the Triple Crown. By giving a carrot, it can hopefully entice the world’s best players to stick around for the three weeks rather than take a fee at one tournament and run after a week.
Finally, Golf Australia needs to do everything in its power to keep the World Cup in Australia.
While it is biannual due to golf becoming an Olympic sport, having a tournament of that quality once every two years will bring a quality field to Australia and keep fans engaged with the game.
The last month has seen the game in this country return to the fairway after a decade in the rough. Australian golf has a great chance to return to prominence. Hopefully the custodians bring it to us.