Defending champion Thorbjørn Olesen and Major winner Louis Oosthuizen are the star acts in this week’s ISPS HANDA Perth International, which returns to The European Tour International Schedule after a one-year break.
Olesen triumphed at Lake Karrinyup Country Club the last time the A$1.75 million tournament was staged in October 2014, securing a morale-boosting victory which proved the catalyst for a late-season surge.
The Dane never looked back after opening with a round of 64, eventually prevailing by three shots from French Ryder Cup star Victor Dubuisson to register his second of three wins on The European Tour.
Olesen will now bid to become the first player to mount a successful title defence in the ISPS HANDA Perth International, an event tri-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia.
He said: “I really like Australia in general, and especially Perth. It’s just a shame that it’s so far from Europe, or else I would visit a lot more. The people are great, the food’s really good and I just like the vibe of the place. It’s nice and relaxed, Australians have a good attitude to life, and you can have fun. The course is also great, so I’m really looking forward to going back to defend my title.
“My season really turned around with the win there in 2014. I’d been struggling a little bit until that point, but the win got me into the Final Series and I managed to finish the year strongly with some good results in China and Dubai, which made a big difference.
“I didn’t really have any expectations going into the tournament, but managed to shoot some good scores and the confidence came flooding back. I really enjoyed everything about the week, and I’m excited about going back.”
Despite a missed cut last week in Malaysia, Olesen heads to Perth full of confidence after finishing tied second and joint eighth in Qatar and Dubai respectively.
The same could be said for Oosthuizen, whose campaign clicked into gear with an improved display last week.
After missing the cut in Dubai, Oosthuizen bounced back with a top 12 finish in Kuala Lumpur, and the South African will now bid to build on that performance when he makes his debut in the ISPS HANDA Perth International.
Oosthuizen has sought advice from his compatriot Ernie Els, whose 29 under par aggregate winning total in the 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup broke the European Tour record for the lowest winning 72 hole total in relation to par.
He said: “I spoke to Ernie a bit about the course, because has won there before. He said great things about the place, so I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself. I hear there’s a big South African crowd there, and I’ve got friends who live there as well.”
Brett Rumford, who finished in a tie for seventh place on his last appearance in the Tshwane Open, will lead the home challenge, having recovered from the serious stomach illness which restricted his 2015 campaign to just nine starts.
Rumford has five European Tour titles to his name but none have come on home soil, and the 38 year old will be determined to change that record in his home city.
Other notable names in the field include the 2014 runner-up Dubuisson, who continues his push for a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, and England’s James Morrison, who set the course record at Lake Karrinyup two years ago with a stunning round of 63 on day two.
Marcus Fraser, who claimed his third European Tour victory - and first in almost six years - at last week’s Maybank Championship Malaysia, will also receive a hero’s welcome on his return to home soil as he attempts to emulate Nathan Holman, winner of December’s Australian PGA Championship, by becoming an Australian home winner on The European Tour.