Aussie PGA to carry on under shadow of mammoth T-Rex

Chris Hyde

While U.S. golfers await the PGA of America’s “outside the box” introduction of the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, all hell is breaking loose Down Under.

Amid a circus atmosphere involving a 26-foot high robotic dinosaur named Jeff, a mining magnate who could give Donald Trump a run for his billions in the crazed egomaniac department, and the reunion of two golfers who nearly came to fisticuffs a year ago, a golf tournament may just well break out at Australia’s Palmer Coolum Resort.

It seems the show will go on for the PGA of Australasia, which, after what tour chief executive Brian Thorburn termed the usual "ups and downs" of dealing with multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, reached an 11th-hour agreement with Palmer to stage this week’s Australian PGA Championship at his resort, according to The Australian’s Brent Read. At issue was the future of the event at Palmer’s resort after the eccentric businessman decided to promote his business and political affiliations via painted advertisements on the fairways, scrawl "Freedom of Speech" in letters visible from the Space Station across the 15th fairway, and announced plans to build a replica of the Titanic and hold a memorial for John F. Kennedy on the ninth hole during Saturday’s third round.

And, oh yeah, then there’s Jeff, the giant T-Rex between the ninth green and 10th tee that flips its mechanical tail, and opens its mouth in a loud bellow. The tour asked Palmer to turn Jeff off for the tournament. (Palmer’s long-term blueprint for the resort is to install additional Dino replicas and turn the place into Jurassic Park.)

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AP Photo/Dennis Passa

After much back and forth, Palmer tweeted on Sunday that all was well.

Tour officials weren’t so sure, as they urged players, who include Greg Norman and improbable Australian Open winner Peter Senior, to watch what they said on Twitter.

"Officials reminded the players of the Tour's social media policy and the need to be careful with their public comments, another indicator of the residual fears that the event could be placed in jeopardy if the wrong thing was said this week," Read wrote.

Needless to say, the tourney will not return to Coolum next year.

As for the prize fight, 2011 British Open champ Darren Clarke will break up Robert Allenby and Geoff Ogilvy should their grudge match of 12 months ago spill over into Thursday’s opening round.

The two went at each other after the final round of last year’s contest, though they have long since settled their public dispute.

"There's only so many people you can play with in a tournament in Australia. It's inevitable it is going to happen," tourney director Andrew Langford-Jones told Read. "My decision to put them together had absolutely nothing to do with last year's argument on Sunday night. That's a year ago. They're professional golfers. They play where they're drawn."

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