Tiger Woods robbing Aussie golf fans
WHEN Tiger Woods arrives in Australia on a reconnaissance mission next month, it's Golf Australia that should be asking all the questions.
In yet another hammer blow for golf fans, next year's time-honoured Australian Open is unlikely to include any of golf's biggest names from the US because Woods is poised to lure them to his unofficial PGA Tour event in the Bahamas.
Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt spent the majority of Tuesday defending the lack of stars involved in this year's Open, which begins at The Lakes on Thursday.
He also confirmed the date of next year's tournament on December 5-8 at the Australian in Sydney - one week before the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.
Pitt said the scheduling would aid GA's chances of Australia's Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman using the Open as a vital tune-up before the Presidents Cup.
But the same can't be said for the Americans - as was the case when Woods played in the 2011 Australian Open prior to the Presidents Cup.
Pitt conceded Woods' foundation event would rob GA of virtually any hope of luring America's biggest draw cards to Sydney, including Woods, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Ricky Fowler or Brooks Koepka.
"Look, it's challenging," Pitt said. "World golf is a bit of a behemoth and there's a lot of things going on around the world at any one time.
"Yes, it (Woods' event) will (impact the 2019 Australian Open). We understand that.
"Last time around (before the 2011 Presidents Cup) with the Australian Open, I think we got nine out of the 12 US players.
"I think this time around that will flip and we'll be targeting international players.
"And look, not everyone will play Tiger's event. It's obviously a limited field, but I think that's the challenge that organisations like ours face in terms of dates these days.''
Pitt said GA would turn their focus to targeting the world's best European tour player next year.
More immediately though, he refused to accept that this year's Open was in danger of attracting small galleries as a result of a field made up of players without household status.
"We've got five of the top 50 in the world, which is I think a really good achievement. So I think it is a deep field,'' Pitt said.
"We're getting to a point in Australian golf where there is a passing of the baton and players like Cam Smith and even Cam Davis, who won last year, both had terrific years, and I think we see a time when that baton will be passed to the new brigade.
"We've got five amateurs in the field this week and they're all ranked in the top 20 amateur rankings in the world, so there's a lot of positivity there from previous years.''
Woods will make a hit-and-run visit from this year's tournament in the Bahamas - and which includes 17 of the best players in the world and benefits his TGR Foundation - for Presidents Cup promotional activities in Melbourne on December 5-6.