He twice defeated Tiger Woods in match play competition; now Nick O’Hern must better 18 competitors in a single day to claim the second Mercedes-Benz Gold Coast Sanctuary Cove Professional Shootout at the Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club.
O’Hern is one of a number of high-profile additions to the second staging of an innovative format that sees 19 players tee off from the first tee on The Pines Golf Course and one player eliminated at each hole until there is only one man standing on the 18th green.
Defending champion Adam Blyth and the man he outlasted in the dark Travis Smyth both return on Sunday with some of the most recognisable names in Australian golf adding to a star-studded field.
O’Hern, Peter Senior, Marcus Fraser, Terry Price and Paul Gow will represent the old guard, Jake McLeod makes his maiden Shootout appearance a week after playing in his first major championship while Japan Golf Tour regulars Brad Kennedy, David Bransdon, Anthony Quayle and Adam Bland are taking advantage of a break in the schedule to compete for $50,000 on home soil.
Incorporating a signing session of his book Tour Mentality for Sanctuary Cove members on Friday night, O’Hern says he will adopt a slightly different approach to that which earned him match play wins over Woods in 2005 and 2007.
“I think it will be quite different because I imagine at the beginning you need to be fairly conservative,” O’Hern said.
“There are not going to be 19 pars or better on the first hole. I imagine there’ll be a few bogeys and maybe even a double or two thrown in once in a while so I think over the first few holes a more conservative approach will be a good idea.
“Then as you go along maybe you get more and more aggressive whereas in match play I always tried to start out a little more aggressive, try and get the lead and then keep the foot down.
“This might require a slightly different tactic but it’s the first time I’ve played it so I have no idea.”
O’Hern visited The Pines course for the first time in early June for the National Final of the Mercedes Trophy but spent the entire day parked on the 16th tee.
If he gets that far on Sunday O’Hern will be among the final four, hopeful that regular social rounds at some of Victoria’s finest golf courses will enable him to compete.
“I didn’t know about it or the format and when I was told about it I thought it sounded fantastic,” said O’Hern who, like Geoff Ogilvy, has recently moved back to Australia after some 15 years in the United States.
“I’ve just been playing a social round once a week and doing some mentoring in trying to help golfers improve their games so in that I’ve been playing the odd nine holes here and there.
“I haven’t been practising so that’s obviously something that isn’t ideal but even without the practice my scoring’s been quite good because I’ve been playing quite a bit.
“For a four-round tournament it’s probably not ideal but for an 18-hole shootout I think it will be fine, my game’s in pretty good shape. For 18 holes anything can happen, which is great.”
In his 25th year as a professional and with his 48th birthday approaching in October, O’Hern is already plotting another assault on an Australian Open title to go with his 2006 Australian PGA Championship victory.
“I still feel I can be competitive,” O’Hern said.
“Two or three months out from the Open and the PGA I’ll start putting in some hard work and get my game in tournament mode which will wrap around to the start of the following year where we have a few tournaments as well.
“I’ll be ready to go for those. The only downside is I’m just not playing week in and week out competitive golf like I used to.
“I’m not going there to make up the numbers. I’m hoping to compete and see what kind of run I can make at it.
“The Aussie Open has always been a dream of mine to win. I’ve been runner-up three or four times and in this game you never what can happen. I might catch lightning in a bottle for a week and we’ll give it a good shake.”
The 19-man field will tee off from the first hole at The Pines Course at Sanctuary Cove at 8.30am Sunday morning.
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