Rory chase on as Aussie Open gets a new home

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann holds the trophy after winning the Australian Open (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) /
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann holds the trophy after winning the Australian Open (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) /

Golf Australia boss James Sutherland is adamant the field for the Australian Open will have an “international flavour” after doubts over the staging of this year’s event were put to bed less than 200 days from the tournament’s return to Melbourne.

No big names have yet been locked in with a strong Australian presence certain with Kingston Heath revealed as the new main venue after a determination to get the event on the “best courses” having only been played twice in the past 22 years on the famed Melbourne sandbelt.

The push could be on to lure the likes of world No.2, and 2013 Australian Open winner, Rory McIlroy, who in 2020 was primed to play in the event at Kingston Heath before it was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.

“Kingston Heath to me is so good,” he said at the time.

“I love those splashed up bunkers and the bunkers go all the way to the edge of the greens. That’s what I like.”

There had been concerns around a host course for this year’s dual-gender tournament, with both the men’s and women’s events to be played on the same course at the same time for a third-straight year, with several in Melbourne’s sandbelt baulking at the taking on the playing load.

But Golf Australia officials have secured Victoria Golf Club to co-share and it will host half the field for the opening two days before the final two rounds of both the men’s and women’s events will be played at Kingston Heath.

Defending men’s champion Joaquin Niemann has signalled his intent to return to defend his title which he won in Sydney last year.

ISPS HANDA Australian Open - Day 4
Joaquin Niemann celebrates winning the Australian Open in 2023. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Niemann, who plays on the LIV Golf tour, earned an invitation to the Masters on the back of his victory in Sydney, with Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley labelled the Australian Open a “great, great event”, possibly paving the way for more of LIV’s big names to head to Australia to also try and book a Masters spot.

“If previous years are any indication the field will be very strong. Australian players are very proud of their national open … they want to get their name on the trophy,” Sutherland said on Thursday.

“You can expect the field to have a real international flavour, on the men’s side we are co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour so we’ll see players from Europe.

“We’ll see others as we did last year with Joaquin Niemann coming to try and earn a spot at the (British) Open which he did and he’ll be playing at Royal Troon.”

Sutherland said moving the tournament from Sydney, where it has been staged for 15 of the past 16 years, was about getting the event on the “best courses”.

“The Melbourne Sandbelt is a unique treasure in world golf, with a long history of hosting tournaments and producing worthy champions,” he said.

“We believe that great tournament should be played on the best golf courses.

“It’s remarkable to think that in the lats 22 years this will only be the second time on the sandbelt.”

The fields will consist of 156 men and 84 women, competing for prize money of $3,400,000 with the tournament to be played from November 28 to December 1,

As was the case in 2023, there will be one cut made to both the men’s and women’s fields after 36 holes of play, having flirted in 2022 with both a Friday and Saturday cut.