Open drought end in sight
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.”