However, recency bias (particularly of the negative variety) can sometimes mask important positive factors and outside of organisational and broadcast issues there was much to take from the week in Melbourne.
Case in point was a small moment from this much bigger event that illustrated in the space of just a minute what made the return of the Australian Open to the Sandbelt so important.
There was almost too much to digest during this historic tournament, from the mixed men’s and women’s formats to the return of proper tournament golf after almost three years in the Covid wilderness.
Yet this one moment, seen by only a few, served to remind us of some of the things about golf which are much more important than numbers on scorecards or names on trophies.
With all due respect to three outstanding champions in Kipp Popert, Ashleigh Buhai and Adrian Meronk, this past week was a reminder that any single event is fleeting but the essence of the game endures.
The moment came during Saturday’s third round in the group of Laura Davies, Karrie Webb and Steph Bunque.
It happened at Victoria Golf Club’s 4th hole (the group’s 13th having played the back nine first) and it passed virtually unnoticed by most.
But Laura Davies’ brilliant par on that hole, from a hollow left of the crowned green, took all the ingredients of what makes the Sandbelt great, dumped them in a big pot and dished up a helping of the holy grail of the game: interesting golf.
In the space of little more than a minute in front of a (disappointingly) small crowd, all that golf could and should be unfolded beside that green.
Having missed pin high left, Davies arrived at the putting surface to find her ball lying perfectly. And that was only the start of her problems.
She was also short sided. And on a very slight down slope. And with a lie that would allow her to play any shot she might choose.
In other words, all the ingredients required to conjure up the golfer’s worst enemy: doubt.
Davies had arrived at the green with the lofted wedge already in hand, clearly having decided at the tee that the high shot would be the order of the day.
But it soon became apparent there was some second guessing going on.
More than once Davies set up to the ball with the wedge but every time she backed away. There were several discussions with caddie and former Tour player Rebecca Artis before the wedge was finally sheathed in favour of the putter.
That Davies then proceeded to lay the ball almost dead after so much toing and froing is testament to her enduring greatness.
(Interestingly, it was also a shot any amateur of any standard could play.)
But more than the execution it was the decision making that was fascinating to watch and reminded again why golf courses – and the way they are set up – are so important to the game remaining entertaining.
Consider for a moment how many thousands of chip and pitch shots Laura Davies has played in her life. Try to imagine the range of situations and lies she has faced.
And yet, this ball sitting perfectly just 25 feet from the flag with nothing but well maintained grass between them was making her uncomfortable.
Granted, the scene didn’t play out at a crucial moment in the tournament but the point is it easily could have.
Certainly, it was a far more compelling spectacle than had the green been surrounded by thick rough where a hack with a lofted club was the only option.
Importantly, variations of this same scenario would have played out perhaps hundreds of times across the three fields over the course of the week, helping to separate the very best from the merely very good.
To see the game’s top players have both their imagination and execution tested is the highest form of the game but it is all too often missing from the professional scene.
There will be much Monday morning quarter backing about the merits of the mixed format and in particular the cutting of the two fields to only the top-30 and ties for the final round.
But long after that discussion is settled, the enduring legacy of this tournament will be the message it has sent to the world that there is no better or more entertaining form of golf than that found on the Sandbelt.
It’s likely a forlorn hope but if elements of what we saw at Kingston Heath and Victoria this past week were to be adopted more broadly, the game would be a vastly more interesting one.
To both watch AND play.
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