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Allenby Speaks Out about Returning to Competition in His Home Country
Robert Allenby said he is unlikely to again play golf in Australia after launching a scathing attack on the local tour, its fans and the media. Allenby's latest attempt to win on the PGA Tour for the first time in eight years faded in last weekend's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he said returning home for anything other than a family visit held little appeal.
"I'll be playing this game over here (the U.S.) until I'm 55, but I just don't need to put up with any shit anymore," Allenby said at Bay Hill over the weekend. "Life's too short. It's so positive over here that it's hard to go back to all the negative shit I have to deal with in Australia."
Allenby said the raucous Australian golfing public and the "negative" media had left him disillusioned. He added that Australia's golf officials "don't appreciate me" and that the events on the Australian Tour were meaningless in the context of world golf. "I'll definitely go back to Australia but only to see my family," the Victorian said. "I don't need to play. What do I need to play for? Enough is enough.
"I've been very supportive to the Australian Tour in my life but they don't look at it like that. They don't understand what I've actually done for the Australian Tour. There's no kickback towards me so there's no benefit for me. There's no benefit for me going back there and winning all three (majors - Australian Open, Australian Masters and the PGA) tournaments. I don't get anything from it apart from the paychecks and the trophies. In the rest of the world, it doesn't mean anything because the Australian Tour's become like a little pea."
He blamed the tall-poppy syndrome for the negative reaction he says he encounters at home. "No matter what they think in Australia, we don't make that much money compared to the athletes over here, but there's this idea that we're greedy," he said. "We work bloody hard for what we have."
Allenby said his feelings about playing in Australia had been building for some years but they were brought to a head last year at the Australian Open when he was heckled at the 17th hole, the so-called Party Hole. "That was the last straw," he said. "My mum was dying and some of the comments that came out from the drunks at the back of the green towards me were disgusting. Obviously, I broke down on 15 green at the (Australian) Masters. My mum came out and I knew how sick she was. I broke down, I lost it, because I knew she wasn't going to be there for much longer.
"What they said in Sydney ruined me forever. These drunks yelling, 'That's all right mate, your mummy's not here now, you don't have to cry.' That was 20 years straight of the Australian Open and I thought, that's it. I'm not ever playing another Australian Open again and I'm not playing in Sydney again.
"I can tell you that there are a number of Aussie players that are losing interest in playing in Australia because of the way we've been treated. And we're not spoiled brats or anything like that, but we just want respect. There's a lot of players that have a sour taste in their mouths. What it comes down to is that I don't enjoy playing the tournaments anymore.
"I love the golf courses, I love them to death. It's just come to the point where I don't need to play these tournaments. I play enough that I could take that time off and rest instead."
His widowed father, Don, who is visiting Allenby during the Florida swing on the PGA Tour, supported his son's stance. "I agree with what he says. It's unreal how much of a hard time he gets in Australia," Don Allenby said.
Allenby said that if he played at all in Australia, it would be in his home town of Melbourne at the Australian Masters, where Tiger Woods will appear this year. PGA Australia chief executive Max Garske will fly to Georgia next Monday to take in the Masters, where he will begin talks with Allenby and the country's other leading players about returning to play in this year's PGA at Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
Officials representing the Masters and Open are expected to do the same. Garske said he hoped Allenby would change his mind about returning to Australia and praised the Victorian's contribution to the local game, saying it had always been appreciated. "Of course we will check on his availability," Garkse said.
"History would say Robert has supported this tour extremely well every time - probably more so than anybody else, certainly as much as anyone else. He's been a great supporter. We always want him to be there (at the PGA). We would like him to be back for all the events on the Australasian Tour."
Told Allenby had derided the size of the Australasian Tour, Garske said: "Sure the Australasian Tour is nowhere near the size of the U.S. Tour or the European Tour, but at the end of the day you look at the quality of player it's produced and the pathways we have in Australia. While it's difficult to match the rest of the world in terms of prize money, the quality of player that's comes out of our country is second to none."
Golf Australia officials are still hopeful he will return to play at NSW Golf Club in December. "We would love to have Robert at the Open," Golf Australia chief executive Steve Pitt said. "I will sit down with him and see if we can get some common ground and get him excited about playing here again. We certainly want him in the field. He's a great player and he has a fantastic record back here."