The power of tennis playing its men’s and women’s grand slams together could have the same effect on golf according to Australian legend Karrie Webb, who is adamant the world-first happening in Melbourne this week will only enhance both events.
Refuting a suggestion from veteran Aussie pro Scott Hend that both national opens deserve their own space, Webb said playing the men’s and women’s Australian Opens together, on the same course at the same time, the only national Open in the world to do that, could be the boost the events need.
The combined fields feature eight major champions, including the current men’s and women’s British Open champions in Cameron Smith and Ashleigh Buhai and women’s US Open champion Minjee Lee, giving it the star power needed to draw worldwide attention.
“I saw his comments but you know, when tennis started playing the slams together it lifted both profiles of the game,” said Webb, who won the last women’s Australian Open at Victoria in 2014.
“And, you know, there’s been times in tennis where the women’s game has lifted the men’s game and vice versa, the men’s game’s lifted.
“I do get his point, but I also think that this is something pretty special to be able to celebrate everyone at the same time.”
Webb is a five-time Australian Open winner and was a leading advocate for the combined tournaments, which will be played across the same two courses at Victoria and Kingston Heath on Thursday and Friday before finishing at Victoria across the weekend.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2010 Australian Open winner, said the extra Saturday cut, where both fields will be reduced to 30 for the final round on Sunday, was the only negative for the history-making event that is replicating the success of the Vic Open.
“It‘s obviously been a fantastic format down at the Vic Open, it’s been Australia’s best golf event I would have said for most of the last decade, “ he said.
“I’m not a mega fan of having a Saturday cut to be honest. You could be five shots behind the lead and going home and I don’t think that’s super great for a national open to be honest.
“But outside of that, I think that it should be really good and should get a lot of eyes on it.
“I think there’ll be a fair bit of atmosphere and a lot of interest and that alone is significant.
“We’ve had been a long time since we’ve had an Australian Open played in Australia In 2019). It feels like it’s been a really long time since we’ve had one in Melbourne (2002).
“Time will tell whether it’s bigger because we’re all here, but it’s great for golf.”