The Australian Masters, an iconic tournament in this country for nearly four decades, has been cancelled for 2016. But event owner, IMG, has hinted a return of the Masters as a "world class experience."
BY BRENDAN JAMES
The Australian Masters, an iconic tournament in this country for nearly four decades, has been cancelled for 2016.
Owners of the tournament, the International Management Group (IMG), has announced the event wouldn’t be part of the Australasian Tour later this year.
After six years of rotating to different courses around the Melbourne Sandbelt, the Gold Jacket event returned to its spiritual home, Huntingdale Golf Club, last November. But the writing was on the wall for the Masters in the days and weeks before Peter Senior slipped the coveted jacket over his shoulders. Total prizemoney was slashed to $700,000, a naming rights’ sponsor, UNIQLO, was seemingly found at the 11th hour and only one player from inside the top-50 of the world ranking, Adam Scott, was in the field, which certainly affected crowd numbers.
With the World Cup of Golf being played in Melbourne later this year and the Presidents Cup due to return in 2019 – both supported financially by the Victorian Government’s major events and tourism arms – there is little doubt government funding for the Masters has either dried up or hasn’t been forthcoming.
Vice President-Director of Golf, IMG Australia and New Zealand, David Rollo issued a brief statement signalling the scrapping of the Masters … for now.
“As part of IMG’s ongoing evolution of its golf events business, the company is in the process of reimagining its Australian Masters event to ensure the delivery of a world-class experience,” he said.
“To best execute a change of this scale, IMG today announced that the Australian Masters will not be played in 2016.”
There has been some speculation and whispers in recent months that the Australian Masters will move to a February date alongside IMG’s other Australian tournament, the European Tour co-sanctioned Perth International. Further to that are rumours the tournament will definitely not be played in Melbourne.
First held in 1979, the Masters attracted some of the best players from around the world aiming to win the gold jacket and Waterford Crystal Globe in what became a great tradition in Australia’s summer of golf.
Greg Norman became synonymous with the tournament in the earlier years grabbing six gold jackets in an astonishing stretch from 1981 to 1990. The event has also given several Australian players the chance to launch themselves onto the international stage after breakthrough victories at Huntingdale. They include the likes of Ian Baker-Finch, Craig Parry, Richard Green, Peter Lonard and Aaron Baddeley, while the prestigious past champions roll of honour reads as a who's who of the golfing world.
In 2008, IMG entered into a long-term strategic partnership with the Victoria Government to build the annual Australian Masters into a "Best in Class" event that was to provide a flagship for the Australian golfing calendar.
The 2009 Australian Masters saw the start of the venue rotation policy, with the tournament moving to Kingston Heath Golf Club, where all sorts of attendance and TV ratings records were broken as a result of Tiger Woods’ winning appearance.
It proved to be a high watermark for the tournament and seven years on the Masters is off the schedule … but for how long?
“IMG will unveil its new plans for the event in the coming months,” were the closing words of Rollo’s statement. Here’s hoping it is the dawn of a new era for the Masters, rather than a eulogy.