Australia’s Greatest Golfer: Ian Baker-Finch v Steve Elkington

To many they are defined by one magic week in careers stretching out across more than two decades yet the resumes of both Ian Baker-Finch and Steve Elkington go far deeper than that.

Both emerged from humble beginnings to scale the greatest heights golf offers and now face off against each other for the chance to move into the final four of our search for Australia’s Greatest Golfer and a semi-final showdown with Greg Norman.

Baker-Finch’s crowning glory was the 1991 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, his affinity for the British links clear for all to see when he led the 1984 Open at St Andrews in his first appearance in a major.

An unfortunate stroke of luck on the opening hole of the final round cruelled the Queenslander’s hopes that day but seven years later he fired weekend rounds of 64-66 at Birkdale to claim the Claret Jug by two strokes from fellow Australian Mike Harwood and a place in golf immortality.

But to confine Baker-Finch’s accomplishments to four glorious days in England is merely a snapshot into a stellar career.

His Major debut in 1984 was a direct benefit from his first professional title, the 1983 New Zealand Open, the first of 10 PGA Tour of Australasia victories.

He came close to completing the Australasian Open double in 1983 when he was runner-up to Peter Fowler in the Australian Open at Kingston Heath and showed his growing stature with victories at the WA Open, NSW Open, Queensland PGA and a runner-up finish at the Victorian PGA the following year.

The Australian Match Play Championship in 1987 was his first national triumph but more would soon follow, starting the 1988 Australian Masters where he bested close friend Roger Mackay and Craig Parry in the playoff.

Wins at the Coolum Classic (1990), Vines Classic (1992) and Australian PGA (1993) further entrenched Baker-Finch’s status on home soil but there were also victories abroad in America, Sweden and Japan.

From the time he joined the University of Houston golf team from Wagga Wagga in 1982, Steve Elkington concentrated his efforts on success in the US and did so in impressive fashion.

The only Australian to win THE PLAYERS Championship on two occasions (1991 and 1997), Elkington is one of only seven Aussies to have won at least 10 PGA TOUR tournaments and was a formidable presence in major championships.

Top-five twice at the Masters in 1993 and 1995, Elkington was part of the four-man playoff ultimately won by Ernie Els at the 2002 Open Championship but is best known for his extraordinary Sunday performance at the 1995 US PGA Championship.

Trailing Els by six strokes through 54 holes, Elkington fired a round of 7-under 64 at Riviera Country Club to set a new 72-hole scoring record at the championship and force a playoff with Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, a playoff he would win with his eighth birdie in 19 magical holes.

Although he wasn’t a regular back on Australian soil later in his career, Elkington claimed the 1992 Australian Open at The Lakes in a field that boasted Montgomerie, Americans Raymond Floyd, Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Janzen and Duffy Waldorf.

Both have now developed into popular media personalities but their playing records – highlighted by one Major milestone each – stand among the best we have ever seen in this country.

Ian Baker-Finch
Career wins: 17
Major wins: 1 (1991 Open Championship)
PGA TOUR wins: 2
European Tour wins: 2
Australasian Tour wins: 10
Australian Open: 2nd (1983)
Australian PGA: Won (1993)
Round 3 def. David Graham
Round 2 def. Greg Chalmers
Round 1 def. Brett Rumford

Steve Elkington
Career wins: 17
Major wins: 1 (1995 US PGA Championship)
PGA TOUR wins: 10
Australasian Tour wins: 1
Australian Open: Won (1992)
Australian PGA: T44 (2003)
Round 1 def. Peter O’Malley
Round 2 def. Rachel Hetherington
Round 3 def. Bruce Devlin

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