MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA | Leave it to my
Australian taxi cab driver to sum up the
charm of Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Watson faced a 48-foot downhill putt. ... His
next shot required a wedge from 50 yards
off the green. What was it Norman said
about staying below the hole?
my cabbie said. He proudly announced he
had played them all, and caddied at Royal
Melbourne, for good measure. “We call it
the Sand belt, and it was meant for golf,”
Then he asked me if I had been to The
Presidents Cup yet. I said I had walked her
fairways on Thursday when Webb Simp-
son and Bubba Watson poured in seven
birdies in 16 holes in mild, spring-like
conditions. Royal Melbourne, a course
Norman promised, “will eat your lunch,”
was just whetting its appetite. On Friday,
a hot, northwestern wind whipped to 35
mph. Greens baked by the 90-degree heat
rolled 14-plus on the Stimpmeter. It felt
was it Norman said about staying below
18th green and none of it absorbed into
“There’s probably nowhere else in the
world that would happen,” Norman said.
And to think they moved the tee times
up to avoid the worst of the weather.
Almost on cue, storm clouds massed
over the course. Less than a half-hour
after play was completed Friday, rain fell
in buckets. On Saturday morning, play
began in a warm breeze and rain. Couples
compared these fall-like conditions to the
Seattle weather where he grew up. By the
afternoon, temperatures dropped. Winter
had set in. The greens softened, but the
wind switched directions. Hunter Mahan
was reminded of the British Open.
Ernie Els has won three tournaments
at Royal Melbourne. He once shot 60 on
a windless day. He thought he had seen
it all. “I’ve played the north breeze and
the southwesterly. But today was quite
amazing. It blew from the north, and then
it turned around and came from the south.
We’ve had it all this week.
“Yesterday it was rock hard ... and today
it was almost blowing like in Scotland.”
On Sunday, the sun shined almost as
bright as Royal Melbourne itself.
As I handed my cabbie payment for the
ride, I mentioned that I had a Monday tee
time on the grand old lady.
“Enjoy one of the great walks in golf,”
he said. Then after I tipped him, he leaned
out the window and added, “You’ll be lucky
Funny, he hadn’t even seen my game. l