Australian Open hoping for better days

Jack Nicklaus once called it the fifth major and, indeed, it has a tradition that predates a couple of the true majors of modern times. But the only thing major about the Australian Open these days is its battle to survive.

The 104-year-old event used to be among the most prestigious tournaments outside the four majors, boasting a winners’ list that includes six-time champion Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson and Gene Sarazen.

Most of the big-names are no longer interested in travelling all the way Down Under and sponsorship is difficult to come by for the event as it struggles to match the massive prize money that is currently on offer on the US PGA Tour and European Tour.

With a global credit crunch that has spared few putting a squeeze on spending, it only adds to the Aussie woes.

However, a handful of world renown golfers, including two past major winners, are hoping that their presence can rekindle interest in the tournament being played at the Royal Sydney in December.

Two former Antipodean US Open champions, Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, along with Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke will provide a measure of star quality for this year’s event. Ogilvy was quoted as saying in a Reuters article:

“It seems harder and harder to find money for professional golf and sporting events in general in Australia really, but they’ve done a pretty good job here. Our event’s better every year so hopefully we ride it out until it gets good again and then it’s back to one of the biggest ones in the world.”

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