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2023 ISPS HANDA Australian Open Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 27 Nov 2023

Adrian Meronk, who will be spending much of next season on the PGA Tour, will defend his ISPS HANDA Australian Open title this week.

The tournament is being staged at The Australian Golf Club and The Lakes Golf Club. Adrian Meronk finished the 2022-23 DP World Tour season in fourth place in the Race to Dubai, behind only Rory McIlroy, Nicolai Hojgaard and Jon Rahm and secured one of 10 PGA Tour cards on offer as a result of his efforts.

Twelve months ago Meronk won the title in some style, finishing five strokes ahead of his childhood idol, Adam Scott.

He finished with an eagle at the final hole as he closed out the week with a fine 66 at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne. Min Woo Lee (69) was outright third a further shot back at nine under.

Six months after winning the Irish Open to become the first Pole to triumph on the DP World Tour, Meronk joined legends like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Greg Norman and Scott in etching his name on the Stonehaven Cup.

“I’m super excited and to finish like that on the 18th hole is just unreal,” the 29-year-old said. “I’m so grateful.”

Lee and Scott will be back for another tilt at the Stonehaven Cup.

There is a truly international field with the likes of Robert MacIntyre being joined by fellow Scots Grant Forrest, Connor Syme and Calum Hill.

A winner of the 2021 Hero Open in his homeland, Forrest has six top-10 finishes in 2023, highlighted by a tie for third at the Irish Open, while Syme had a great run during August-September, picking up four top tens, including an equal third at the Omega European Masters.

Hill, a DP World Tour winner in 2021 at the Cazoo Classic in England, was third at this year’s ISPS Handa - Championship in Japan and fourth at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo.

Alex Fitzpatrick

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

Alex Fitzpatrick is the younger brother of 2022 U.S. Open Champion Matt and is quickly establishing himself as a quality golfer in his own right, He turned professional in 2022 after a four-year college career at Wake Forest University.

Fitzpatrick reached a high of Number Four on the World Amateur Golf Rankings and represented Great Britain & Ireland at the 2019 and 2021 Walker Cups.

He split his time between the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour in 2023, winning the British Challenge, finishing fourth at the Italian Challenge Open, tied third at the B-NI Challenge Trophy, second at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, tied fifth at the European Masters and tied 17th at The Open. The next step must be a victory on the DP World Tour.

Tom McKibbin, the latest star from Northern Ireland to claim victory on the DP World Tour will be looking to add to his CV.

He grew up playing at Holywood Golf Club, the same home club as Rory McIlroy, and represented Ireland at the 2018 and 2019 European Boys’ Team Championship and played for GB&I in the Jacques Léglise Trophy the same years.

He turned professional in 2021 and played on the European Challenge Tour the following year, earning his DP World Tour card after finishing tenth on the Road to Mallorca Rankings.

McKibbin became the youngest winner from the island of Ireland since McIlroy when he triumphed at the 2023 European Open in only his 26th start, holding off the challenge from home favourites Max Kieffer and Marcel Siem to win by two strokes in Germany. He does not turn 21 until December.

A number of Americans will also be making the trip Down Under, including Patrick Rogers. He has played 251 PGA Tour tournaments without a win, but he has been runner-up four times, finished third three times and had 11 top-five finishes and he ended the 2022-23 season in 49th place in the FedEx Cup standings with a best of second at the Barracuda Championship, tied third at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and fifth at the Texas Open.

Joaquin Niemann is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour who is now plying his trade with LIV Golf. A former world number one amateur, the Chilean won the Greenbrier in 2019 at the age of 20. He lost the Rocket Mortgage in a playoff in 201 and then won the Genesis Invitational in February 2022.

He has hardly set the world alight since his LIV Golf defection but did lose the LIV Golf Invitational Boston in a playoff in 2022. He will feel that he has a point to prove this week.

Of course, home fans will be hoping to cheer a home player to victory and the man to watch this week could well be Lucas Herbert.

He seems to have been around for ever but is still only 27 and has bene performing a difficult balancing act, splitting his time between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. He won the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in October 2021 bu that had a pretty disappointing season in 2022-23, with a solitary top-10 finish.

But he did win the ISPS Handa Championship in April, one of three victories he has enjoyed on the DP World Tour. He claimed the Dubai Desert Classic in 2020 and the Irish Open in 2021.

Returning to home soil could well be the tonic he needs.

Tournament Winners

It was won in 2015 and 2019 by Matt Jones, in 2016 by Jordan Spieth, in 2017 by Cameron Davis, in 2018 by Abraham Ancer and in 2022 by Adrian Meronk. There was no tournament in 2020 and 2021.

The Course

The Lakes Course was designed by Mike Clayton and is located on the outskirts of Sydney.  As its name implies, there is a LOT of water.  The fairways are narrow and  there are plenty of trees and bunkers to be avoided. It measures 6,900 yards and is a par 70.

The Australian Golf Club was founded in 1892 and is the oldest course in the country. It was originally designed by Carnegie Clark and updated in 1926 by Alister Mackenzie before a further update by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 and again in 2013. It is a tree-lined par 72 measuring 7,300 yards

Australian Open Betting Tips, Picks & Form Guide

It is difficult to see beyond Cameron Smith. He has no weaknesses, rarely plays poorly and loves playing in Australia. Don’t read anything into him failing to make the cut at the Australian PGA. Lucas Herbert may not have set the world alight on the PGA Tour but he has shown some sparkling form on the DP World Tour and is another who will relish being back home. And it is surely only a matter of time before Min Woo Lee wins his national Open.

To win:

Cameron Smith. The class act in the field

Each way:

Adrian Meronk. Beautiful ball striker

Each way:

Lucas Herbert. Better than he thinks he is

Australian Open Five to Follow

Cameron Smith. Looking to put last week behind him - quickly

Adrian Meronk. Poland’s finest

Lucas Herbert. Streaky

Min Woo Lee. Can go really low

Patrick Rogers. Underrated

Australian Open Five Outsiders to Watch

Joaquin Niemann. Looking to get his career back on track

Alex Fitzpatrick. Increasingly impressive

John Catlin. Has lost his way

Alex Levy. Has struggled for too long

David Horsey, Last-chance saloon

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Tags: european tour dp world tour

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