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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 250
A USTRALIAN golfers have long had a close association with The Open Championship and this year’s venue, Royal Birkdale, has been the kindest in terms of results. Birkdale has hosted The Open only nine times, with its first in 1954 when Peter Thomson was the victor and started his run of five victories and 15 top-10s through to the early 1970s. The layout near the holiday town of Southport, would prove special to Thomson again as he also won his fifth Claret Jug there, 11 years after the first. Thommo later described his 1965 win as his greatest. In 1991, Ian Baker-Finch realised his boyhood dream when he fired weekend rounds of 64-66 to defeat fellow Aussie Mike Harwood by two strokes. There could have been another Aussie drinking champagne from the Claret Jug in front of the art deco clubhouse back in 2008, but a then 53-year-old Greg Norman could not hold on to his two-stroke lead after 54-holes. After putting on a clinic of majestic and precise ball-striking in windy conditions in the third round, Norman simply had nothing left in the tank on Sunday to match the eventual champion Padraig Harrington. Indeed, Birkdale has been a happy hunting ground for Australians at The Open. Beyond the victories, Australian golfers have either won or finished in the top-five six out of the nine Opens played at Birkdale. So what makes Birkdale so appealing for Australian players? Can we expect the same level of performance this year? The links courses on England’s north- west coast generally tend to play a little firmer and faster than the Scottish courses on the Open rota. DOWN UNDER DOMINANCE
GA Express 249
GA Express 251