Added to the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule after the cancellation of the New Zealand Open, this week’s The National PGA Classic will be played Tuesday to Friday to avoid clashing with the majority of the play from Augusta National.
The new event will also give the newest layout at The National, the Gunnamatta course, its first chance to welcome a four round professional event, with scoring set to be low and the unique challenges of the design sure to offer intrigue.
The Order of Merit race and the subsequent three cards on the DP World Tour continues to be one of the main storylines this week, with some of the leading contenders playing on other Tours around the world, and others making a return journey home for this week.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
COURSE: Once the site of Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge’s Ocean Course at the magnificent The National facility, Tom Doak’s Gunnamatta welcomes the Aussie Tour this week. The par-72 measuring 6,489 metres and offering a different challenge than what it typically served up for tournament golfers.
RIGHT: One of the form players in Australia of late, Dimi Papadatos is one to watch this week at The National. PHOTO: Andy Cheung/Getty Images.
Designed for fun, according to Doak, the course took the extreme difficulty of the layout that formerly traversed this part of the Cape Schanck property and turned it into an enjoyable yet challenging experience that allows for multiple playing lines from the tee, coupled with receptive greens.
“It is very much a new course, with Doak virtually turning the course upside down – replacing the repelling upturned greens of the Ocean Course with majestic greensites, many with receptive punchbowl shaping or slopes continuing onto the putting surfaces from surrounding mounds,” Golf Australia editor Brendan James said.
Beyond the greens, players this week will be welcomed by wide fairways and plenty of roll, with the wind perhaps posing the biggest obstacle to low scoring, with a winning total greater than 20-under to be expected this week.
Ranked No.8 in Australia’s Top-100 Courses by Golf Australia magazine, Gunnamatta posesses short par-4s, great par-3s and reachable par-5s, suggesting strategy will be of paramount importance.
“Like my other courses in Australia, there are some terrific short par-4s and a memorable set of par-3s, but the three par-5 holes are unusually good for my work, too,” Doak told Golf Australia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: There are 108 players on the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula this week attempting to be the first champion of this event, with more jockeying for spots at the top of the Order of Merit expected.
Currently on top of the money list, Jed Morgan has a virtually unassailable lead but will be keen to find his best form again after an interesting run since winning the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at his home club.
There have been missed cuts, withdrawals and top-10s since Royal Queensland for the former Australian Amateur winner, but the challenge of Gunnamatta should suit Morgan’s game, the strategic challenge will excite his creativity and his excellent putting will serve well on a new venue.
Morgan’s fellow winner of the Australian Amateur, Louis Dobbelaar ,sits outside the all-important top-3 of the Order of Merit, but is clearly planning on making up ground.
Having made a dash to the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica after a share of 73rd at the Golf Challenge NSW Open, the Brookwater Country Club member is back on home soil and is another golfer with the sort of game that should suit here.
After missing the cut at the Australian Amateur following his NSW Open triumph, Harrison Crowe is back in action this week on the Mornington Peninsula and having claimed the Kel Nagle Cup on another of Tom Doak’s Australian layouts will be licking his lips at the prospect of Gunnamatta.
Powerful off the tee and an excellent ball striker, Crowe, like the rest of the field will need a sharp short game if he is to have more success at the professional level this week.
Anthony Quayle and Andrew Dodt are two of the players high up on the Order of Merit missing this week, which will give Blake Windred, Dimi Papadatos and Aaron Pike hope of securing a ticket to Europe.
Windred is already a winner on the Peninsula in 2022, and was the runner-up at Concord just a few weeks back. Papadatos loves playing in the wind, and in Victoria, with the New South Welshman winning the Vic Open for a second time earlier this year, and more good form shown when finishing in the top-10 at his state Open.
Pike was the winner at Cypress Lakes in the most recent The Players Series event and his T44 in his last start at the NSW Open can be forgiven with the Northern Territory born, Queensland based player admitting he struggles to play the course well.
Pike has been in great form so far this year and owns a brilliant short game full of variety that will hold him in good stead this week.