Out of the Rough: Fortinet Australian PGA Championship (2023)
As one season ends, another one begins.
The 2022-23 DP World Tour season has come to an end as Nicolai Hojgaard claimed victory at the DP World Tour Championship a few days ago in Dubai.
Now, the 2023-24 season begins just as the last one ends with a tip down-under for the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
This event returned to the DP World Tour’s schedule last year after being off for three years.
The Fortinet Australian PGA Championship first joined the schedule in December of 2015 and was first held at Royal Pines Golf Club on the Gold Coast.
It was staged there until 2019. In 2022 when the event returned to the schedule, it was held at Royal Queensland where it is still staged.
This week marks the beginning of a 44 tournament DP World Tour season that spans across five continents.
It also kick-starts the DP World Tour’s ‘Opening Swing’ that will run from now through December and the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
Each of the swings will have its own Champion. The winner of the swing would earn $200,000 from an overall $1 million pool.
This week’s field is headlined by three time winner and defending champion Cameron Smith. The former The Open champion and LIV golfer is back this week in an attempt to defend his title and claim his fourth Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
Smith leads a strong home contingent that includes the likes of fellow Australian golfers Min Woo Lee and former Masters Champion, Adam Scott.
Scott is also a two time winner of this event.
Since its addition to the DP World Tour in 2015, an Australian has won every year except 2016 that saw American Harold Varner III claim victory.
Joining the impressive list of Australian golfers is a list of DP World Tour and LIV stars.
That list includes Mito Pereira, Adrian Meronk, Joaquin Niemann, Robert MacIntyre and Ryo Hisatsune.
Other former winners of this event that are playing this week include Jediah Morgan (Jan. 2022.)
This week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship is held at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane, Australia.
It plays as a Par 71 at 7,134 yards and is located on the north bank of the Brisbane River.
Although Royal Queensland Golf Club was opened in 1921, the course hosting this week’s tournament is only 16 years old and was designed by ex-Tour pro Mike Clayton.
This course is a more modern parkland layout that was completed in December of 2007.
Overall, it is a flat course with wide fairways and very little rough.
Despite that, there is an abundance of strategically-positioned bunkers which serves as the course’s main line of defense.
Although there is an abundance of sand, there is limited water to trouble golfers this week.
As of the time of writing this, there is a 20-percent chance of precipitation across all four days this week. Temperatures will range from 78-to-81 degrees across all four days as well. Winds will range from 12-to-13 miles-per-hour from Thursday through Sunday. Beyond that, the weather looks to be in good shape this week.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Average Driving Distance
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Sand Saves Percentage
Adrian Meronk (+1400)
I couldn’t get myself to bet the slim odds of Cam Smith (+450) or Min Woo Lee (+700) who are far and away my favorites this week so instead I’ve opted for Meronk. Meronk is currently first on the DP World Tour in SG: OTT, fifth in GIR%, 13th in SG: APP, 26th in bogey avoidance, 39th in scrambling, 46th in average driving distance, 57th in SG: PUTT and 88th in sand saves percentage. Meronk has been in decent form as of late as well. He didn’t have the best showing at the DP World Tour Championship going T32nd but prior to that went T15th at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and won the Andalucia Masters back in October. I’m playing two units on him this week.
Robert MacIntyre (+2500)
MacIntyre became one of the hottest commodities on the DP World Tour after his second place finish in July at the Genesis Scottish Open to Rory McIlroy. He hasn’t won since then but has performances such as a T4th at the Made in Himmerland, T6th at the Qatar Masters and recently placed T18th at last week’s DP World Tour Championship. He is currently 13th on Tour in sand saves percentage, 17th in scrambling, 23rd in average driving distance, 28th in SG: OTT, 36th in bogey avoidance, 43rd in SG: APP, 59th in SG: PUTT and 62nd in GIR%. In other words, he’s above average in each of the eight statistical categories I took into consideration this week. I’m playing a unit on him this week.
Alex Fitzpatrick (+6000)
Fitzpatrick has become one of the hottest names in the sport since teaming up with his brother earlier this year at the Zurich Classic. After that moment he went on to win the British Challenge presented by Modest! Golf Management on the Challenge Tour. He also placed second on the DP World Tour at the ISPS Handa World Invitational and T5th at the Omega European Masters. His form hasn’t been great recently but did post back-to-back finishes of T20th at the Open de Espana and T26th at the Andalucia Masters in October. He is also fourth on the DP World Tour in sand saves percentage, 11th in bogey avoidance, 14th in both SG: APP and scrambling, 37th in GIR%, 72nd in SG: PUTT, 101st in SG: OTT and 125th in average driving distance. I’m going away from the mold of a bomber off the tee with this one but I like the rest of his game. I’m playing a unit on him.
Sean Crocker (+7500)
The only other non-Australian to win this event in recent times was Harold Varner III of the United States so I’m backing another American here in Crocker. Crocker is currently 18th on the DP World Tour in both SG: OTT and average driving distance, 24th in SG: APP, 25th in GIR%, 86th in bogey avoidance and 103rd in scrambling. His downfalls come on the greens as he ranks 132nd in SG: PUTT and out of the sand as he ranks 147th in sand saves percentage. I’m really going in on distance off the tee with strong approach and GIR% numbers. That’s Crocker. If he can find his putter this week, he can make some noise. I’m playing a unit on him this week.