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25 Years & Waiting: Australasians Hunt Open Glory

Greg Norman's 1993 Open win at Royal St George's was the last time an Australasian hoisted the Claret Jug.
Eight Australians and two New Zealanders constitute the 'Down Under' challenge at this week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland but it might be a stretch to suggest one will add to the 10 Open titles won by Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Kel Nagle, Ian Baker Finch and Sir Bob Charles.

Let’s look at the Australasians in the field and assess their respective chances of becoming the region's first Open champion since Norman won his second Claret Jug a quarter of a century ago.

THE AUSTRALIANS

Jason Day will play his eighth Open Championship, having never missed the cut.

He has a best of 4th at St Andrews in 2015 when finishing just one shot from the playoff won by Zach Johnson but that is his only top 10 in the event.

Day has had a great season in 2018 with two victories on the PGA Tour and although his most recent form is below that level he is too good a player to dismiss.

Marc Leishman looms as an excellent hope among the Australians. His form has, admittedly, been a little inconsistent of late but he has developed into a big event player and has played the Open Championship well in the past.

He has been inside the top six finishers in the event in three of his last four starts including a playoff loss in 2015.

Leishman's weekend last year of 66 and 65 at Royal Birkdale provides more good memories at the Open and he deserves serious consideration as a potential challenger for the title.  
 
Adam Scott has not played since the US Open a month ago and even prior to that there was not a lot to get excited about.

He will have the services of Nick Faldo’s former caddie, Fanny Sunneson, on the bag this week which will create its own interest. She was with Faldo in two of his three Open Championship victories and has had plenty of other success.

Scott has played the Open Championship on 18 occasions and in more recent years has performed very well. Since 2012 he has recorded four top tens but it is his current form and readiness that may well be in question.

Cameron Smith is in the field courtesy of his word ranking being inside the top 50.

His only start in this event was when missing the cut at Royal Birkdale last year but Smith has shown a capacity (when 4th at the 2015 US Open and 5th at this year’s Masters) to play majors well.

The Queenslander has struggled with his game in recent starts having missed the cut in four of his last five events so will need some sort of turnaround if he is to be any factor at Carnoustie.

Cameron Davis earned his start in the event as a result of his Australian Open victory last year but like Smith his game has deserted him in recent weeks after winning on the Web.Com Tour two months ago.

He is a significant talent and could well contend in this event in the years ahead but it would appear unlikely this week.

Matt Jones is in the field because of his runner-up finish at the Australian Open in November.

He has made the cut in all three appearances at the Open Championship although a 30th place finish at St Andrews has been his best.

Jones’ game appears to be improving in recent weeks with top-20 finishes in two of his last three starts on the PGA Tour but further improvement appears needed if he is to have any chance of contending.

Lucas Herbert finished 8th at the Singapore Open in January to earn a start via The Open Qualifying Series.

The Victorian does have a small advantage this week having played the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie in 2015 so is not exactly playing the golf course blind.

After his good start to the year the last five months have not been particularly productive for the 22-year old although he did finish 3rd in a European Tour event in Sicily a few weeks ago.

He missed the cut at the US Open in his first start in a major championship and will be better again for this week’s experience but it is perhaps a little early to expect much better than a cut made.

Brett Rumford gets to play just his 6th Open Championship which is perhaps surprising given the length of time he has played the European Tour. He has made only two of the five previous cuts and has a best of 16th behind Tiger Woods in 2006.

Rumford’s most recent form is well below his best with 42nd being his best finish in his last eight starts so it is hard to get excited about his chances of a good week. A cut made would be just that.


THE NEW ZEALANDERS

Ryan Fox has elevated his status in the game in recent weeks and the 31-year-old New Zealander now sits at an all-time high of 84th in the world rankings.

His 6th place finish last week in the Scottish Open followed a playoff loss at the Irish Open which earned him a start this week so his form is perhaps the best of his career.

Fox plays his third Open Championship having made the cut on debut in 2015 and then missing the weekend last year. He is developing into a world-class player however and could build further on his recent form on links layouts.

Michael Hendry, who gained his chance at Carnoustie via the Japan Golf Tour’s International Qualifying, missed the cut in his only start at the Open last year.

Hendry has continued to play in Japan in recent starts with only limited success. This, therefore, is a significant step-up in class and if he was to make it to the weekend this week then he will have had a good week.     

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