FORMER champion Robert Allenby last night launched a bitter attack on the running of the Australian Open at Royal Sydney, hitting out at the promoting of alcohol and the treatment of John Daly, and threatening to withdraw from next year’s tournament in protest after having played the event for 20 successive years.
The dual Open champion savaged Golf Australia’s "Stadium Hole" promotion at the 17th green, where a bar was set up, saying: "That’s not promoting golf, that’s promoting alcoholism."
He continued: "This is my 20th year in a row at the Open. No one knows that because no one writes anything. No one wants to write anything good. It’s my 20th year in a row and you wonder why golf in Australia’s slipping? Well, it’s the way it has been made to be. If that’s what they’ve got to do to promote tournaments, I don’t think I need to be here."
Allenby, who engaged in a vigorous discussion with Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt in front of the clubhouse after completing his final round, was also incensed by the John Daly sideshow at the open, saying it was "disgusting".
After finishing in a tie for third behind South Africa’s Tim Clark in the $1.5 million tournament, Allenby was scathing about the treatment of the American and the lack of action by course marshals against photographers. The Melburnian played alongside Daly on the opening two days, which included the incident on Thursday when the two-time major winner smashed a spectator’s digital camera into a tree. The spectator, Brad Clegg, has since criticised Daly in a newspaper interview.
"A lot of things were wrong this week, not so much with me," Allenby told Fairfax. "I don’t want to get myself into trouble but I could really let loose. I think it’s disgusting how the media have treated John Daly. It’s totally disgusting.
"All the guy wants to do is play golf. He understands and we understand that people want photographs. It says on the ticket – ‘No cameras allowed’. If this guy [Clegg] is going to kick on and on and on about it, that’s just horse shit. He knows that he shouldn’t have it there, so why’s he have it in his face? That’s a joke.
"I could have taken 50 cameras myself. That’s how close they were. The marshals did nothing. The first day on [hole] 16, the marshal’s taking a photo from the middle of the fairway, five yards behind Daly. There were more cameras this week than I’ve ever seen in my life at a tournament." In another incident, Allenby was lucky to avoid injury when a golf cart he was riding in flipped into a bunker after rain forced players from Royal Sydney on Friday, but he said that was not the source of his angst.
Pitt, who recently took up the chief executive role at GA’s Melbourne headquarters, said Allenby’s complaints would be noted. "We understand how important guys like Robert are to this tournament," he said.
"We want to make them feel this is an event that they won’t miss. Robert’s done 20 in a row. We certainly want Robert back. We’ll listen to anything he’s got to say, or any top player’s got to say."
Clark, a 32-year-old from Durban, beat Mathew Goggin in a play-off on the 18th hole, winning the tournament almost by default after the Tasmanian missed a straight-forward putt from a metre to take a bogey and hand over the Stonehaven Trophy. He is the third South African to win Australia’s biggest tournament, behind the legendary Gary Player, who won seven, and Bobby Locke.
Earlier, a "gutted" David Smail had squandered a four-shot lead by taking double bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes when the title was his for the taking. The New Zealander finished equal-third, with Allenby and West Australian Stephen Dartnall, a shot out of the play-off.