SYDNEY, Dec 4 - Defending champion Greg Chalmers is looking to secure his place in Australian golf history this week with a third victory at the Emirates Australian Open.
The $1.25 million OneAsia tournament has a special place in the hearts of Australian golfers, and Chalmers says winning at The Lakes Golf Club last year opened doors that had been closed to him for over a decade.
Chalmers beat hard-charging countryman John Senden by a shot to claim a title he first won 13 years earlier, and the win gave him a spot in Britain's Open Championship for only the second time in his professional career.
"There is no question that this was the start of some really great things for me this year," Chalmers told a news conference on Tuesday.
"I didn't win in America, but I got a lot of great opportunities based on how I performed in Australia. I got some opportunities I would not have had in the past. They came from winning the Australian Open. "
The tournament has long been considered one of the most prestigious outside the United States and Britain, and the roll call of winners includes some of the game's greatest names -- including Gary Player (seven times), Jack Nicklaus (six) and Greg Norman (five), as well as Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson (once each).
Almost all the country's leading golfers make their way home from tours around the world to compete for the Stonehaven Cup, and this year world number five Adam Scott -- who won it in 2009 in its first year as a OneAsia event -- is the top-ranked home player in the field.
"When you win an event like this, you have your own small piece of that history," said the left-handed Chalmers, who followed his win last year with a victory at OneAsia's Australian PGA Championship, presented by Coca-Cola, two weeks later.
"There are the Majors, and then you want to win your nation's Open. Given the history we've had with so many great players coming from our country, you want your piece of that. I have two now. "
Chalmers said it definitely felt different playing the tournament as a defending champion, but week-to-week he rarely knows who the title holder is at any event he is playing in.
"It's weird because you think you are the only guy who cares," he said.
"As a player in the field, it doesn't bother you -- you really don't think about it -- but it is important to me on a personal level. I would like to have a good defence of my title."
One of the main challenges for that title will likely come from world number four Justin Rose, whose only other appearance in the Australian Open came in 1998, the year Chalmers first won.
"That was probably in the middle of missing 20-odd cuts in a row," Chalmers said of the Englishman, who had turned pro just months earlier after finishing tied for fourth in the Open Championship as an amateur.
"He is a lot better now. Now he is one of the top players in the world and he is looking to stay there."