Eleven Aussies chasing Open glory at Royal St George’s


Wimbledon champion Ash Barty talked of the stars aligning following her three-set win on Saturday night. Fifty years after her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first Wimbledon triumph, Barty broke a 19-year wait for an Australian male or female single’s champion.

Eleven Aussie golfers – the country’s strongest representation since 2017 at Birkdale – will hope two historical omens hold true when they contest the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s Golf Club starting Thursday.

In a championship in which we have been perennial contenders for 70 years, it has been 28-years since a man from Down Under got his hands on golf’s most revered trophy, the Claret Jug.

Just as Goolagong Cawley’s name was repeated with each round that Barty advanced past at the All England Tennis Club, if the Australian flag flies high on the leaderboard on England’s south-east coastline at any time this week two names in particular will come to the fore.

This year marks 30 years since Ian Baker-Finch shot a front-nine of 29 on Sunday to take a stranglehold of the 1991 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale while the last Australian male winner, Greg Norman, did so on the links of Royal St George’s in 1993.

For some of the Aussies in the field the wait to play The Open has been 18 months and counting; others have played their way into the field by virtue of stellar play in the past three weeks.

Four Australians – Jason Scrivener, Deyen Lawson, Aaron Pike and Min Woo Lee – will be making their maiden appearance in the game’s oldest major championship while the likes of Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Jason Day will view it as an opportunity to make up for the near misses of the past.

Since Norman’s stunning victory in 1993 Australians have finished in the top five at The Open on 13 separate occasions without leaving as the Champion Golfer of the Year.

Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington (both 2002) and Leishman (2015) have gone beyond 72 holes only to fall short in the playoff and for three years from his disastrous finish at the 2012 Championship at Birkdale Scott’s destiny to claim the Claret Jug came into view only to ultimately remain unfulfilled.

But, as Barty discovered only days ago, perhaps destiny has a sense of history.

Perhaps in a championship in which Australians have been so successful in the past, the stars are now aligning in the skies above Royal St George’s to usher in a new legend of the game in this country.

Player Profiles

JASON DAY

Age: 33

World Ranking: 68

Open Appearances: 9

Best Open finish: T4 at St Andrews in 2015

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: T30 in 2011

Best finish in 2021: (PGA TOUR)

How he qualified: US PGA champions from 2015-2021

Final word: On the surface Day’s game is not one ideally suited to the British links, his lone top-15 finish coming in 2015 at St Andrews when he was tied for fourth. Recent improved results have come on the back of renewed confidence with his putting but his rank of 118th in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green is evidence that his iron play is not quite where it needs to be.

LUCAS HERBERT

Age: 25

World Ranking: 55

Open Appearances: 1

Best Open finish: T51 at Carnoustie in 2018

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: Won Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (European Tour)

How he qualified: First three from Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Final word: Arguably the most in-form Aussie in the field after his win at the Irish Open two weeks ago followed by a tie for fourth at the abrdn Scottish Open. At his best when he is confident and creative, Herbert made the cut in his only previous start at The Open, joining Tiger Woods for a practice round before finishing tied for 51st at Carnoustie. Victory would appear unlikely but beware the hot hand. Excellent option as leading Australian.

MATT JONES

Age: 41

World Ranking: 62

Open Appearances: 4

Best Open finish: T30 at St Andrews in 2015

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: Won The Honda Classic (PGA TOUR)

How he qualified: Top 3 at Open Qualifying Series-Australian Open

Final word: Now boasts the same number of PGA TOUR titles as his two Australian Open triumphs following a super impressive victory at The Honda Classic. Made the cut in three successive Opens from 2014 and has made the cut in each of the three majors to date in 2021. With a calm demeanour such a key at The Open, is well placed to push up towards the top 20.

BRAD KENNEDY

Age: 47

World Ranking: 210

Open appearances: 2

Best Open finish: MC in 2011, 2012

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: MC in 2011

Best finish in 2021: Won The Players Series Victoria (PGA Tour of Australasia)

How he qualified: Winner of 2020/2021 PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit

Final word: He waited until late in his career to make an impression at the highest level but the three-time Japan Golf Tour winner is becoming accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the world’s best. He has played a WGC event and the US Open this year and returns to The Open for the first time since 2012. Admittedly not the style of golf he finds most comfortable, Kennedy’s proficiency with the putter will put him in position to play the weekend.

DEYEN LAWSON

Age: 30

World Ranking: 627

Open appearances: 0

Best Open finish: First appearance

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: T2 ISUZU Queensland Open (PGA Tour of Australasia)

How he qualified: Won Final Qualifying at Prince’s Golf Club

Final word: After dominating the PGA Tour of Australasia pro-am circuit and finishing second at the Queensland Open, Lawson would have been expecting better than a run of 10 missed cuts in Europe between May and the first week in July. He defied that form to top qualifying next door to Royal St George’s at Prince’s Golf Club and given he grew up playing in the Geelong region may revel in the challenge presented by The Open.

MIN WOO LEE

Age: 22

World Ranking: 62 (projected)

Open appearances: 0

Best Open finish: First appearance

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: Won abrdn Scottish Open (European Tour)

How he qualified: Leading three finishers at abrdn Scottish Open not otherwise exempt

Final word: The last of the 11 Australians into the field by virtue of his playoff victory at the abrdn Scottish Open, Lee has history of supreme ball-striking in extremely difficult conditions. His display in ferocious winds on the final day of the 2020 Vic Open at Thirteenth Beach was imperious and if he can come down off the high of winning in time will revel in the environment of his first appearance in a major championship.

MARC LEISHMAN

Age: 37

World Ranking: 32

Open appearances: 9

Best Open finish: T2 at St Andrews in 2015

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: Won Zurich Classic (with Cameron Smith)

How he qualified: Top 50 in World Rankings as of Week 21

Final word: Was eyeing off the US Open at Torrey Pines as the breakthrough major championship he craves so much and will enter this week as arguably Australia’s best hope. Finished in the top six at The Open three times in four years between 2014 and 2017 and was fifth at The Masters in April this year. Was third in his last start at the Travelers Championship and won’t be phased by predicted winds of between 20-27km/h for the majority of the tournament.

AARON PIKE

Age: 35

World Ranking: 637

Open appearances: 0

Best Open finish: First appearance

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: T8 at Victorian PGA Championship (PGA Tour of Australasia)

How he qualified: Top 3 at Open Qualifying Series-Australian Open

Final word: Considered stepping away from professional golf until his tie for third behind Matt Jones at the 2019 Australian Open secured a start at the 2020 Open Championship. When the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19 Pike had to wait a further 12 months, adding the NT PGA Championship title on the course he grew up playing to his 2018 Victorian PGA Championship in the meantime. Has had precious few playing opportunities this year so making the cut would be a victory in its own right.

ADAM SCOTT

Age: 40

World Ranking: 41

Open appearances: 20

Best Open finish: 2nd at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s in 2012

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: MC in 2003, T25 in 2011

Best finish in 2021: T10 at Farmers Insurance Open (PGA TOUR)

How he qualified: Top 50 in World Rankings as of Week 21

Final word: As is his custom, arrived at Royal St George’s a week ago to begin preparations for his 21st appearance in the Open Championship. Due to turn 41 on Friday, Scott squandered a golden opportunity in 2012 and was top five in each of the next two Opens but has not finished inside the top 15 since he was tied for 10th at St Andrews in 2015. Has finished outside the top 20 in each of his past seven major appearances but has two top-20 finishes in his past three starts on the PGA Tour.

JASON SCRIVENER

Age: 32

World Ranking: 98

Open appearances: 0

Best Open finish: First appearance

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: 2nd at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (European Tour)

How he qualified: Top 20 in Race to Dubai rankings after BMW International Open

Final word: Has soared up the Official World Golf Rankings in 2021, a runner-up finish at the Abu Dhabi the first of four top-10 finishes on the European Tour this year that elevated the West Australian inside the top 100. Top 10 in each of his past two starts including a tie for ninth at the Irish Open, Scrivener was the top Aussie at the US PGA Championship and is making his Open Championship debut.

CAMERON SMITH

Age: 27

World Ranking: 29

Open appearances: 3

Best Open finish: T20 at Royal Portrush in 2019

Previous starts at Royal St George’s: Nil

Best finish in 2021: Won Zurich Classic (with Marc Leishman)

How he qualified: Top 50 in World Rankings as of Week 21

Final word: Considered by many as the Australian man most likely to next win a major, Smith showed he is adapting to the demands of links golf with a tie for 20th at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Since that tournament he has won two more times on the PGA Tour and recorded back-to-back top-10s at The Masters. Another week where his creativity will come to the fore.


Headlines at a glance