Despite being less than two weeks from Thanksgiving in the United States, some of the game’s biggest stars are playing in some of the world’s biggest events this week.
Scattered around the globe teeing it up are the likes of Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III. The issue, as former U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy argues, is that none of the men mentioned are in the field at this week’s Australian Open.
Considered by many Down Under to be golf’s “fifth major,” Ogilvy slammed the event that he won in 2010 as a “second-rate tournament” that has been surpassed by other competitions around the world.
“Growing up in Melbourne, I was always told that the Australian Open was golf’s ‘fifth major,'” Ogilvy wrote in a lengthy column for GolfAustralia.com. “It had such a great history, so the case was persuasive. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had all regularly come down to play and all three had won the event. So I was sold.
“I hate to say this, but the Australian Open feels like a second-rate tournament now. I’m sure it is run in the same way it was 30 years ago. But tournaments elsewhere have progressed so much. And the differences show.”
Ogilvy lamented everything from an unfortunate tournament date to uncompetitive prize funds for the decline the Australian Open’s fall from grace.
“Money is just one of the problems facing the Australian Open today,” he wrote. “Maybe 25 years ago the prize fund was competitive. But that is no longer the case. In fact, we are now playing the Australian Open for less money than when I turned professional two decades ago.
“The tournament date is an issue. This year, for example, the Australian Open clashes with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the season-ending event on the European Tour. So there is no possibility of any of the top-60 players on the world’s second-biggest circuit teeing-up at The Lakes. It also clashes with the biggest event on the Japanese Tour, the Dunlop Phoenix, which means the Aussies plying their trade on that Tour will be there and not at The Lakes.”
Truly fascinating thoughts from Geoff Ogilvy who says "the Australian Open feels like a second rate tournament" and explains how he'd get it back to its former glory https://t.co/jwkFAAJIQL pic.twitter.com/eop1JxWQrS
— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) November 14, 2018
Ogilvy also pointed out a compounding issue with the 48% Australian withholding tax. By Ogilvy’s estimate, a player who earns $100,000 in prize money will only take home roughly $30,000 after tax, travel and accommodations.
“That’s a lot of money, but the same players could go to a ‘Silly Season’ event in the United States, make the same money and stay at home,” he said.
Staying home this year are some of Australia’s biggest stars: Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman will all be no-shows this week at The Lakes in Sydney.
“I certainly cherish playing back home; the best thing we can do as players is to come back and support the (Australasian) tour.” #golf @PGAofAustralia @GolfAust #AusOpenGolf https://t.co/1YpqUCXl8H
— BradCliffoGolfDigest (@bradcliffo) November 13, 2018
Ogilvy suggested that the framework for revitalizing the tournament is as simple as looking at The Masters.
“The biggest success story in golf is the Masters at Augusta National,” Ogilvy wote. “It is the only tournament that never talks about money. They don’t advertise or market themselves. They just go out of their way to run the best tournament they can. They want the best tees, the best fairways, the best ropes, the best food, the best parking – all to provide the best experience for everyone inside the gate. And, over the years, that constant attention to detail has created the world’s best golf tournament (the other three majors are championships), one that everyone wants to see.
“That is a great example for the Australian Open.”