Thanks to sponsors ISPS Handa, we get another edition of the Vic Open on the European Tour this week.
However, the money will only stretch so far and the ISPS Handa Super 6 Perth has been dropped after two years so the jaunt to Australia lasts just a single week.
Not surprisingly, with the huge amount of travel involved for a potential missed cut, the field is one of the weakest we’ll see all year.
The pre-tournament press shows that eight former winners of the event are playing and that’s because this event has quite a lengthy history on the local Australian Tour – good for assessing course form as 13th Beach Golf Links has been the regular host.
As with last year, there’s both a men’s and women’s tournament running concurrently this week, the purse of $3,000,000 split equally.
The two fields play simultaneously over the Beach and Creek Courses for the opening two rounds and there’s a 36-hole cut for the top 60 plus ties in each event.
It’s off to the Beach for the weekend and, after a second cut Saturday, the top 35 players for both men and women contest the closer.
Every round has alternate groups of men’s and women’s groups teeing off. It means Sunday’s last two tee-times feature the final women’s group followed by the final men’s group.
The format may seem slightly funky but, essentially, it’s a 72-hole stroke event with two courses, the Beach hosting three laps in the same way the South does at Torrey Pines.
13th Beach Golf Links is located about an hour-and-a-half drive away (40 minutes if you take the ferry) from some of the classic Melbourne sandbelt courses so think coastlines and wind. The Beach course is a short 6,807-yard par 72 links, featuring a par 3 measuring just 114 yards, firm, fast greens and long rough. The Creek Course (used just once) is a little more inland. It plays a little longer at 6,940 yards but is still very short by modern standards. It has large, deep bunkers, undulating fairways surrounded by fescue and strategically placed pines.
The short yardages suggest these tracks are there for the taking but the Beach has been the host venue for the Victorian Open over the last six years and not yielded anything too low. In fact, 7-under won it in 2014.
Last Year’s Top Five & Stats
-18 David Law (DD: 22, DA: 22, GIR: 15, SCR: 8, PA: 3, AR: 7)
-17 Brad Kennedy (DD: 18, DA: 2, GIR: 18, SCR: 1, PA: 8, AR: 3)
-17 Wade Ormsby (DD: 20, DA: 11, GIR: 5, SCR: 4, PA: 6, AR: 2)
-16 Justin Harding (DD: 8, DA: 32, GIR: 2, SCR: 15, PA: 21, AR: 11)
Notes: Hopefully, we believe the numbers! Short game – Scrambling and Putting Average – certainly seemed important but, overall, most of the leaders did everything well.
Past winners of Vic Open (when a local Tour event) at 13th Beach
David Law (2019): "You needed to be patient and luckily it's a links-style golf course, you can run the ball in, which I'm used to doing."
Last year, easy conditions meant 14-under was the lead at halfway but high winds and heavy rains on Saturday saw no-one go past that mark on Saturday. Law eventually won with 17-under. This time, conditions are reported to be humid for all four days but the wind will be a factor, especially on the weekend.
The Leading Contenders
Last year, Herbert was the shiny new thing of Aussie golf, even being earmarked as a Presidents Cup candidate. His MC here rather started the slide but, after a slump, he’s rejuvenated after landing the Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago followed by T27 in Saudi. Course form of MC-6-33-56-MC-46 is modest but it's worth noting that he was going nicely here 12 months ago before being blown off course in Saturday’s high winds.
It’s good to see Li adding a touch of class to the field and the Chinese star may have a little spring in his step after closing with a 66 in the Saudi International for tied 21st. Runner-up in the China Tour Championship at the start of December, he’ll hope this trip to Australia for his tournament debut goes better than the Presidents Cup at nearby Royal Melbourne where he played just twice and lost both games.
Cracked the top five here last year although, like most, struggled in Saturday’s bad weather (shot 64-66-76-67). That followed T11 on his previous start at this venue in 2015 so he likes this place. A strong performer on home Aussie turf, he cashed in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai although didn’t make the top 50 in either.
Last year’s runner-up had some impressive numbers and knew the course having finished T19 in the previous year’s Victorian Open. By coincidence, his current form figures are also 19-2. He was runner-up in the Nippon Series JT Cup in Japan and followed that with T19 in the Aussie PGA. The latter was before Christmas so there could be some rust.
Definitely one to look for in windy links conditions having shown up well in strong fields at the Irish and Scottish Opens. Could be building towards something big again after a solid run in the desert (30th Dubai, 27th Saudi) and may by eyeing an ISPS Handa double having won last year’s World Super 6 Perth which he won’t be able to defend after that tournament was pulled. MC last year (another Saturday victim) but T20 on previous visit.
Took sixth place in the 2017 Vic Open here, was third in December’s Aussie PGA and twice made the last eight of the World Super 6 Perth so he’s definitely one to watch on his home Aussie soil. T15 in South Africa before fluffing lines in Saudi (MC) although he did bow out with a 68 last week.
Tied second here last year after leading thru 54 holes. Hit the heights again recently when winning the Hong Kong Open after finishing third in his local Aussie PGA. Don’t be put off by his poor form in the desert (Dubai and Saudi MCs) as this test is far more up his street.
It’s the English youngster’s tournament debut although he did reach the semis of the World Super 6 Perth in 2018 on his only previous start in Australia. Started 2020 brightly with T12 in Abu Dhabi before 36-hole exits in Dubai and Saudi.