Secret weapon in Aussies’ hunt for $3m jackpot
TEAM Australia have taken local knowledge to a new level in their quest for World Cup glory and a $3 million payday.
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, warm favourites to win the $9 million, 28-team event, had a shadow in practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne.
Leading Aussie amateur David Micheluzzi, a member at Metropolitan and fresh off finishing tied for fifth at the Australian Open, gave the pair his tips and tricks for getting around the pristine sand belt layout.
World number 21 Leishman, a Victorian, is no stranger to the course but conceded he hadn't played it for a while.
Queenslander Smith is less familiar however and said the musings of Micheluzzi could prove crucial in their World Cup pursuit come Thursday's opening round.
With $1.5 million going to each member of the winning team, Smith said every little bit extra helps.
"It was actually quite helpful. A couple of those tee shots … knowing where to land them, it was pretty good," Smith said.
Micheluzzi, who led the Australian Open midway through the second round, has twice shot 63 around Metropolitan in the past 12 months, having been a member for four years.
The 22-year-old let Smith's coach, Grant Field, know during the year he was available for any questions the Aussie pair may have about a course he is so familiar with.
He got the call for help confirmed when Leishman picked Smith, over his 2016 World Cup partner Adam Scott, to fly the Aussie flag.
"I did the first 10 holes with them on Monday, and eight on Tuesday," Micheluzzi said.
"I was mainly talking with Cam's caddy, just telling the best angles for shots. The players asked me what would be the best play in certain spots; I told them what I'd do. Pins placements and the wind were always factors."
The Aussies were hitting it "pure" according to the amateur, who called their short games "unbelievable".
"I just tried to give them little things that other countries might know have, hopefully that gives them a good advantage," he said.
Pre-planning may count for little with the fickle Melbourne weather set to make things tough for all 28 teams.
A storm lashed Metropolitan on Tuesday afternoon, leaving the driving range all but empty.
Forecast frigid conditions could mean the warm relationship between the two Aussies is extra important too.
Smith, who has surged to No.33 in the world this year, said the "banter" between the pair, who are as equally relaxed in their approach as each other, could be the perfect fuel for their fires.
"Leish and I have become pretty good mates over the past probably year and a bit. Played practice rounds and just going out for dinner and hung in locker rooms and stuff like that, so we got to know each other really well," he said.
"I'm sure there'll be plenty of banter out there just between us. If we take it pretty lightly, I think, and put some crap on each other, it will turn it into a nice week."