How $10 can make Aussie Open great again
Former champion Geoff Ogilvy has advocated a $10 levy on every golf club member in the country to overhaul the "second-rate feel" to the Australian Open.
Ogilvy was not taking a poke at the quality of the golf expected or the trophy's meaning when Cameron Smith, Matt Kuchar and co tee up at The Lakes in Sydney from Thursday.
What does irk Ogilvy is that not enough has been done to stage the country's oldest tournament with all the trimmings, so it sits with the nation's other elite sporting events.
His proposed "Aussie Open fee" was not to funnel into bigger prizemoney but to raise $4 million to polish the presentation of the tournament for fans and potential sponsors.
"The Australian Open needs to make itself a better product," Ogilvy wrote as a columnist in this month's issue of Golf Australia magazine.
"The best ropes (for galleries), the best food, the best parking, the little things done well and the best experience for everyone inside the gate (like Augusta).
"Tournaments elsewhere have progressed so much (yet) I hate to say this but the Australian Open feels like a second-rate tournament now.
"The Australian Open tennis, the Melbourne Cup, the Grand Prix and the AFL Grand Final are all miles better than the golf ... and the Australian Open golf should be in that sort of conversation."
Ogilvy, a non-starter this week, made it clear how much his own 2010 Australian Open success meant at The Lakes when ranking his 12 pro victories.
"By the time I am done playing, it will represent the second-biggest win of my career after the 2006 US Open," Ogilvy wrote of elevating it above wins over Tiger Woods.
"The Australian Open is the one tournament in this country that has a real chance to get really big, which is not to say that it is going to be easy.
"The economic clout of the PGA Tour has done much to 'ruin' so many events held outside the United States.
"The aim should be to run the best golf tournament in Australia ... do that and the money will come."
Ogilvy used as his powerful example the growth of the Victorian Open to the point it would be played for more ($1.5 million) in February than the Australian Open ($1.25m).
"The Vic Open is living proof of what you can create by running a great tournament and doing all the little things well," Ogilvy wrote.
He said the Australian Open's run in Sydney, in a 13th year, was counter-productive when "selling" the event to the world should have it on rotation around the country.
"Moving almost exclusively to Sydney was a great deal financially but it has changed the identity of the Australian Open," Ogilvy said.
"We need to be showing the world what we have and to almost shut out the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Royal Adelaide and New South Wales is a mistake."
The Australian Open is off to Melbourne in 2020 (Kingston Heath) and 2022 (Victoria), and Ogilvy hopes ideas like his "Aussie Open fee" take off by then.
With about 400,000 golf club members nationwide, a $10 levy would generate $4 million to upgrade the event.
"For that gesture, every golf club member could get a discounted Australian Open ticket and ownership in the tournament," Ogilvy said.
"If some version of the above comes to pass, there is no reason why the Australian Open cannot compete with our other great sporting events, at least in terms of quality."