However, recent bias (especially of the negative variety) can sometimes mask important positive factors, and outside of organizational and broadcast issues, there was much to take from the week in Melbourne.
An example of this was a small moment from this much larger event that illustrated in just one minute what made the Australian Open’s return to the Sandbelt so important.
There was almost too much to digest during this historic tournament, from the men’s and women’s mixed formats to the return of proper tournament golf after nearly three years in the Covid wilderness.
Yet this one moment, seen by a few, served to remind us of some of the things about golf that are far more important than numbers on scorecards or names on trophies.
With all due respect to three outstanding champions in Kipp Popert, Ashleigh Buhai and Adrian Meronk, this past week was a reminder that any single event is fleeting, but the essence of the game endures.
The moment came during Saturday’s third round in the group of Laura Davies, Karrie Webb and Steph Bunque.
It happened on Victoria Golf Club’s 4th hole (the group’s 13th after playing the back nine first) and it went virtually unnoticed by most.
But Laura Davies’ brilliant par on that hole, from a hole left of the crowned green, took all the ingredients of what makes the Sandbelt great, dumped them into a big pot and dished up a portion of the game’s holy grail: interesting. golf.
In the space of a little more than a minute in front of a (disappointingly) small crowd, all that golf could and should unfold next to the green.
After missing the pin high to the left, Davies arrived at the putting surface to find her ball sitting perfectly. And that was just the start of her problems.
She was also short-tempered. And in a very small downhill. And with a lie that would allow her to play any stroke she chose.
In other words, all the ingredients required to conjure up the golfer’s worst enemy: doubt.
Davies had arrived at the green with the high wedge already in hand, clearly having decided on the tee that the high shot was going to be the order of the day.
But it soon became clear that there was another guess going on.
More than once Davies set up for the ball with the wedge, but each time she backed away. There were several discussions with caddy and former Tour player Rebecca Artis before the wedge was finally ditched in favor of the putter.
That Davies then went on to lay the ball almost dead after so much fumbling is testament to her enduring greatness.
(Interestingly, it was also a shot any amateur of any standard could play.)
But more than the execution, it was the decision-making that was fascinating to watch and reminded again why golf courses – and the way they are set up – are so important to keeping the game entertaining.
Think for a moment how many thousands of chip and pitch shots Laura Davies has played in her life. Try to imagine the range of situations and lies she has faced.
And yet, this ball sitting perfectly just 25 feet from the flag with nothing but well-kept grass between them made her uncomfortable.
Granted, the scene didn’t play out at a crucial moment in the tournament, but the point is, it easily could have.
Certainly, it was a far more compelling sight than if the green had been surrounded by thick rough, where a hack with a club with high clubs was the only option.
Importantly, variations of the same scenario would have played out perhaps hundreds of times across the three fields over the course of the week, helping to separate the very best from the merely very good.
Seeing the game’s best players put to the test of both imagination and execution is the highest form of the game, but it’s all too often missing from the professional scene.
On Monday morning, there will be a lot of support for the merits of the mixed format, and in particular the cutting of the two fields to just the top-30 and ties to the final round.
But long after the debate is settled, the lasting legacy of this tournament will be the message it has sent to the world that there is no better or more entertaining form of golf than that found at the Sandbelt.
It’s probably a forlorn hope, but if elements of what we saw at Kingston Heath and Victoria last week were to be adopted more widely, the game would be a lot more interesting.
To both watch AND play.