It takes something special to win one of golf’s four Major Championships but truth be told, it takes something pretty special just to qualify to play in one.
The 100th U.S. PGA Championship being staged in St Louis this week gives us pause to reflect on those who will tee up at Palmerston from August 16-19 who have qualified for a Major during their careers.
Combing the list of entrants suggests there are nine players - Michael Sim, Michael Long, Mark Brown, Matt Millar, James Nitties, Michael Wright, Steven Jeffress, Antonio Murdaca and Ashley Hall - to have accomplished the feat, the last being Hall who played in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last year after qualifying courtesy of his performance at the 2016 Australian Open.
With the Australian Open these days doubling as an Open Championship Qualifying Tournament providing three places each year, Hall earned his place by reaching a playoff at Royal Sydney with eventual winner Jordan Spieth and Queensland’s Cameron Smith.
Western Australia’s Michael Sim has contested five majors and has the best result of any of the players appearing at Palmerston, a tie for 18th place alongside Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Peter Hanson at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black on New York’s Long Island.
Sim also had the distinction of being ‘low Aussie’ in the field that year, beating home Adam Scott, former champion Geoff Ogilvy and Steven Allan who all made the weekend cut.
Photo: The Claret Jug at the 2017 Australian Open in Sydney. (Credit: Golfplus Media.)
Sim’s performance was even more meritorious as a 24-year old having to face the pressure of playing the final round alongside world No. 1 and defending champion Tiger Woods, with the notoriously loud New York galleries bellowing their support for Woods at every turn.
Photo: Michael Sim playing at Palmerston in 2017 (Credit: Golfplus Media)
Fellow Palmerston entrant James Nitties also appeared at Bethpage in ‘09 but missed the half way cut, along with Australians Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Rod Pampling and Matt Jones.
South Australian Murdaca holds the distinction of being the only player appearing in the Top End next week to have received an invitation to play The Masters Tournament at the hallowed Augusta National Golf Club.
Murdaca qualified for The Masters by winning the 2014 Asia-Pacific Amateur title – the same path to Augusta that defending MMC Northern Territory PGA Champion Travis Smyth attempted last year before turning professional – and appeared as an amateur among the Georgia pines in the 2015 tournament, won by Jordan Spieth.
The-then 19-year old missed the cut with rounds of 78-73 but if he never makes it back to The Masters, he can forever boast that he had the chance to play alongside 2013 champion Adam Scott and current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for 36 holes at Augusta National.
Murdaca, Sim and the others with fond memories of their major championship appearances will be looking to channel those experiences into strong performances when the 2018 MMC Northern Territory PGA Championship tees off at Palmerston on Thursday.
Photo: Antonio Murdaca at Palmerston in 2017 (Credit: Golfplus Media)