Adam Scott would love nothing more than to make it an Australian trifecta when the Arnold Palmer Invitational tees off this week.
Marc Leishman and Jason Day have won the last two editions of the Bay Hill tournament and Scott, who has been close before, would love to become the fourth Australian to lift the trophy.
Despite several close calls, including two runner-up finishes each for Greg Norman and Stuart Appleby and another for David Graham, Rod Pampling was the first Australian to succeed at The King’s tournament in 2006 before the Day/Leishman double of 2016/17.
Scott has been rounding into form in recent weeks and will still harbour memories of a bitter disappointment at Bay Hill in 2014 when he opened with 62 but closed with 76 to finish third behind Matt Every.
Another good start in 2017 saw him second after the opening round but he faded the rest of the week to eventually finish T12.
Scott is one of seven Australasians teeing up this week. Leishman and Day are both back and will be joined by Cameron Smith, Stuart Appleby, Curtis Luck and New Zealand’s Danny Lee.
Day will be under the most intense spotlight of the group having drawn Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama as playing partners for the first two rounds, a baptism of fire in his first tournament for a month.
The 2016 winner will be fresh and in a good frame of mind following a productive February which saw him win the Farmers Insurance Open and finish T2 at Pebble Beach the following week.
Further motivation will be the pairing with his boyhood hero Woods, the two becoming close in recent years as the 14-time major winner recovered from various injuries.
The return of Woods will also take the spotlight off defending champion Leishman which will suit the laid-back Victorian just fine.
While the limelight doesn’t bother him, Leishman is just as happy to toil in anonymity and flying under the radar this week won’t hurt his chances.
Leishman hasn’t played since the WGC Mexico Championship where a final round 77 was a blip in an otherwise good week and his record at Bay Hill suggests he is a good chance to be in the mix come Sunday.
Few in the field will be as motivated as Cameron Smith who crept into the top 50 World Rankings last week and needs to stay there for two more weeks to earn an invitation to Augusta National.
Smith has played the Masters just once, in 2016, and while a third round 82 saw him finish well back he will be itching for another chance at the year’s first major.
Curtis Luck and Stuart Appleby have both received sponsor’s exemptions into the field and both are capable of producing a good result.
Appleby was the leading Australian at last week’s Web.com Tour event in Mexico on the back of some decent golf while Luck has a score to settle after a miserable week here last year.
Playing as an amateur on a sponsor’s invitation, Luck played less than his best with scores of 82-79 to miss the cut before having insult added to injury by being disqualified.
The then reigning US Amateur champion had inadvertently signed an incorrect scorecard and while it ultimately made no difference to the outcome it was a mistake he would prefer not to have made.
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