Open drought end in sight

Townsville Bulletin - - GOLF -

FORM GUIDE

BUOYED by the rich sense of his­tory, Adam Scott and Ja­son Day need only to scroll down the Royal Birk­dale hon­our roll to find in­spi­ra­tion to end Aus­tralia’s 24- year Bri­tish Open ti­tle drought.

The ma­jor cham­pi­ons and pair of former world No. 1s lead Aus­tralia’s 11- strong push for the Claret Jug when the 146th Open starts tonight.

Run­ner- up in 2015, Marc Leish­man and ris­ing star Cameron Smith also have de­signs on golf’s oldest and most pres­ti­gious tro­phy af­ter win­ning in Amer­ica this year, and be­lieve Birk­dale is the per­fect place to fi­nally pro­duce an­other Aussie cham­pion.

His­tor­i­cally, the links lay­out on the Ir­ish Sea has been Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful ma­jor cham­pi­onship hunt­ing ground – pro­vid­ing three win­ners and count­less con­tenders – and Leish­man and Smith feel right at home.

Both liken Birk­dale to the great cour­ses on the Mel­bourne Sand­belt, which might help ex­plain why Pe­ter Thom­son raised the Claret Jug in 1954 and 1965 and Ian Bak­erFinch won in 1991, the year he edged coun­try­man Mike Har­wood by a shot and four Aus­tralians fin­ished in the top 10.

A ball- striker’s de­light with its nar­row fair­ways and haz­ardous pots, Greg Nor­man RICKIE FOWLER: Con­tended all the way at the US Open, an Amer­i­can who doesn’t mind grind­ing in foul con­di­tions and his driv­ing ac­cu­racy will be re­warded on this course. ADAM SCOTT: Only two par fives doesn’t suit the way he nor­mally pil­lages a course for top rounds. Will ben­e­fit from his links play at the Scot­tish Open but good rounds there of 69 and 68 can’t be ru­ined by an­other 78. JON RAHM: The young Spa­niard just seems to shoot his way into ev­ery tour­na­ment. He makes a heap of birdies with a re­li­able put­ter but can’t re­sist hit­ting his driver which means some dev­il­ish bunkers will be in his way. JOR­DAN SPI­ETH: Bril­liant short game and con­fi­dence on a high. Looks a bet­ter hope than world No. 1 Dustin John­son. even al­most tri­umphed as a 53year- old part- timer be­fore blow­ing a two- shot fi­nal- round lead in 2008.

“The course is ac­tu­ally quite sim­i­lar to what we play down in Mel­bourne,” Smith said.

“There’s a few holes out there that are a bit rem­i­nis­cent to holes at home so it def­i­nitely plays into our hands more so than other cour­ses over here for sure.” Leish­man agreed.

“It’s a tough but fair course. You need plenty of imag­i­na­tion around the greens,” he said.

“There’s not a whole lot of drivers to hit, you just need to place your tee shots in the right spots.

“I like hav­ing to think my way around the golf course and this is one that cer­tainly of­fers plenty of op­tions, and you have to pick the right one.

“It def­i­nitely has some sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Sand­belt.”

Scott sees and likes them too and also senses an op­por­tu­nity this week.

A peren­nial con­tender in re­cent years, Scott was 16th at Birk­dale last time around and hopes the weather gods al­low him to chal­lenge for the tro­phy once again.

“Over the last few years I’ve felt I’ve had a tougher side of the draw,” he said ahead of his midafter­noon first- round tee off.

“Here in ’ 08, I was on a good side of the draw.

“You’re go­ing to win some and lose some.

“I haven’t ac­tu­ally looked into it too much. I want to stay as op­ti­mistic as pos­si­ble at this point.”

TOUGH BUT FAIR: Aus­tralia's Adam Scott watches the re­sult of his chip on to the sixth green dur­ing a prac­tice round at Royal Birk­dale ahead of the 146th Open Golf Cham­pi­onship. Pic­ture: AFP

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