There’s been great angst among many in the professional golfing community in the past six months about the axing of the 2021 Australian Open.
Rightly or wrongly, one of the beliefs is that tournament organisers feared the “domestic” brigade might not provide the spectacle of pre-Covid years.
Today at Concord, it was as if the professional proletariat staged a mass protest in a day that even the most venerable viewers of the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open could scarcely believe.
Yes, they were playing preferred lies. And yes, the ground was incredibly soft after record rainfall lashed greater Sydney for the past two weeks, creating an “American dartboard” feel to some normally delicate approach shots.
But it would not have mattered whether the field of the era contained Nagle, Thomson and Devlin, nor Shearer, Davis and Newton, nor even Baker-Finch, Norman and Elkington – it would not have scored better collectively than today’s gathering.
A protest? It’s probably not quite that blunt.
But they certainly made their point.
Amazingly nine men share the first-round lead after firing seven-under-par 64s.
But perhaps a better illustration of the depth of home-based talent – especially with so many of our brightest stars already overseas and firing – is that 97 men posted sub-par scores.
And let’s not fall into the “lift, clean and cheat” trap of saying the sodden conditions were the sole reason behind this scoring avalanche.
Because for every wayward shot, a wickedly wet and deep repository of thick kikuyu grass was in play. And for every “cushy” lie the players gave themselves, they effectively ceded 20m of run off each tee shot that stopped almost where it landed.
This was clearly not an orchestrated message. How could it be?
But in one of the most important events on the domestic calendar – and in solidarity with our new standard bearer Cam Smith saluting in the famous Players Championship in the same week – this was a not-so-subtle reminder to some powerbrokers that our home-based touring pros are just fine, thanks.
The myriad extraordinary stories and characters behind this scoring spree may not be the household names they once were, largely courtesy of the ambivalent “mainstream” media.
But rest assured, if you can make it to Concord this week, you will see that Australian golf is as strong as it ever was.