The Open has long been a happy hunting ground for Australians.
Four Aussies have hoisted the famous Claret Jug a total of nine times, ranking us fifth by country in total wins.
And on a per-visit basis, no venue has been “happier” than Royal Birkdale, with this week’s 146th Open the 11th time it has played host and already three Australian victories in the books.
Victorian Peter Thomson saluted for his first Open on the championship’s inaugural visit to the Southport club in 1954, then won again there in 1965 for the fifth and final time.
Queenslander Ian Baker-Finch played one of the great weekends in major championship history shooting 64-66 to win in 1991.
But the story goes deeper with a handful of near misses at the venue north of Liverpool.
Bill Shankland was on the leaderboard for a long time in 1954, when one of Tasmania’s finest, Peter Toogood, won leading amateur honours.
In 1961, Kel Nagle’s title defence eventually fell short against Arnold Palmer, but he finished T5, with Thomson T7.
Nagle (T5) and Bruce Devlin (T8) pushed Thomson all the way in 1965, when for the last time the Open was finished on a Friday afternoon with 36 holes.
Lee Trevino won in 1971 with Thomson (T10) again prominent.
Graham Marsh roared home with a sublime 64 in 1983, but finished two shots shy of Tom Watson who won his fifth Claret Jug having earlier fought off David Graham, Vaughan Somers and Mike Ferguson.
And Baker-Finch’s triumph came over compatriot Mike Harwood by two shots, with Craig Parry having started the final day on the leaderboard, too.
Then in 2008, who could forget dual champion Greg Norman’s outrageous flirt with history when, as a 53-year-old, he led after nine holes of the final round before succumbing in high winds to finish T3 behind defending champ Padraig Harrington, with Rob Allenby also T7.
As clearly evident, Royal Birkdale has produced a string of absolutely world-class champions.
Of the 10 winners (Thomson won twice) – also including Johnny Miller and Mark O’Meara – only Baker-Finch and Harrington aren’t in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and it’s a matter of time until the Irishman is inducted.
Only time will tell if both these trends continue, but Australia is again packing a strong contingent of hopefuls.
Along with regular major contenders Jason Day and Adam Scott, Marc Leishman is packing the most consistent form of his career and has two top-five finishes in the Open in the past three years.
Olympian Scott Hend has shown glimpses of his best form recently, while Aaron Baddeley returns for his first Open in five years courtesy of his T4 finish at last year’s Emirates Australian Open.
Cam Smith, a winner already this season on the US PGA Tour, and Ash Hall also qualified at Royal Sydney last November and while they’ve only had one previous Open experience between them, they are each familiar with links golf having played plenty of amateur golf in the region.
Adelaide’s Adam Bland is yet to make a cut in his two previous Open tilts, but he’s also bringing super consistent form back to Britain from his time on the Japanese tour.
Matt Griffin is another major debutant who loves this style of golf. The Melburnian is hopeful he has sufficiently recovered from an injury he sustained at The Memorial in early June as he continues to take advantage of the great opportunities his win on the 2016 ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia’s order of merit have afforded him.
Tasmanian Ryan McCarthy has put aside his Challenge Tour duties for a week to make his major championship debut after qualifying at Gailes, nearby in Scotland, two weeks ago in spectacular fashion with a birdie in a playoff.
And the last Aussie to reach the field is the increasingly consistent Andrew Dodt. The Queenslander shared the lead heading into the final round of the weekend’s Scottish Open at Dundonald, then hung on to finish tied fourth and pick up the last of three Open berths on offer.