Local players always dominate the field for the Australian Open. Adam Scott came in raging favourite with plenty of enthusiasm for Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy too.
The latter two have managed to fire a solid opening round but an American golfer, largely unknown in Australia who was ranked inside the World’s Top-50 in 2008 is trying resurrect his golf career for the fourth time – and is in a tie for fourth place.
Dudley Hart has only won twice on the US PGA Tour (1996 Canadian Open, 2000 Honda Classic) but few golfers have experienced the roller-coaster like Hart. The 42-year old Hart has been a part of the US Tour since 1990 and earned over US$12million but a back injury forced him off the tour in 2003.
A medical exemption and back playing golf, Hart’s form was returning in 2007, but again he was forced to withdraw – this time to look after his wife and 6-year old triplets when his wife was diagnosed with a tumour on the lungs. Unrelated to smoking it still needed two-thirds of her lungs removed.
Hart returned to golf in 2008 playing the best golf of his career earning over $2million and making 15 of 22 cuts and 9 Top-25 finishes. He was named “US PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year” but trouble was once again around the corner. His back required surgery and he hasn’t played tournament golf since 2009.
So here he is in Australia. After asking for and receiving a sponsors invitation to the Australian Open he has played a great opening round and sits in fourth position. He plays the Australian PGA Championship next week too and he, along with many of us, are hoping he can regain the form of 2008. He deserves a break.