Aussies look to build on links to Hoylake

Eight Australians will tee up at Royal Liverpool – often referred to as ‘Hoylake’ after the suburb – as The Open Championship returns to one of The Open rota’s least familiar links courses this week.

This will be the 12th Open to be played at Hoylake and the first since Tiger Woods won in 2006, however you have to go way back to 1967 to find the previous staging and further again (1956) to the next.

Adam Scott Adam Scott (Credit: Anthony Powter)

The City of Liverpool is famous for it’s football and as the birthplace of the Beatles but Hoylake itself has a notoriety of it’s own beyond hosting the world’s oldest major. John Lennon used to beat a path across the links in his younger days to visit the house of his girlfriend Cynthia, who would become his first wife.

The current James Bond, actor Daniel Craig and AC/DC bass guitarist Cliff WiIliams both hail from Hoylake, while recently retired soccer star Harry Kewell was a Royal Liverpool member during his stint playing for Liverpool.

The Australian connection to the links was established in 1956 when Peter Thomson won his third-successive Claret Jug at Hoylake in the year the Olympics Games were held in his hometown of Melbourne. In the pre-televised golf era, this caused barely a ripple back home, according to Thomson when I spoke to him last month, despite the feat earning Thomson the honour of being the only person in the 20th century to achieve a hat trick of wins.

In his whimsical style, Thomson referred to the Royal Liverpool links as ‘admirably flat’, but noted immediately that the course was a very formidable with particularly penal pot bunkering that would condemn players to pitching out sideways if they strayed off course.

The Australians in the field this week are likely to encounter a much ‘greener’ links than competitors faced in 2006 when Woods famously won by hitting just one driver in 72 holes around a parched golf course.

Of the eight Australians – Adam Scott, Jason Day, Brett Rumford, John Senden, Marc Leishman, Bryden Macpherson, Matt Jones and major rookie Rhein Gibson – only Scott (tied 8th), Rumford (T18th) and Senden (T35th) are returning from 2006.

Despite not having played at all since the US Open, Scott features most prominently of the Australians alongside Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, who is in ominous good form, in pre-championship markets.

Scott’s Open Championships pedigree in recent years is well documented, with any scars incurred by his four-hole collapse in 2012 eased by his Masters triumph in 2013. Last year at Muirfield, Scott again held the lead at one point on the back nine on Sunday but had to settle for a share of third behind Phil Mickelson’s rampaging finish.

For all his success in US majors, seven top 10s including three seconds collectively at the Masters and US Open, Day’s form in The Open Championship has been meagre by comparison, with a tied for 30th in 2011 his best result in just three appearances.

Like Scott, Day is also lightly raced this season due to a recurrent thumb injury that has held him back to just eight appearances this year.

Two of those events however were a win at the WGC Matchplay and 4th at the US Open against the best fields in the world so the odds are slim that the world No.5’s ‘also ran’ record at The Open will continue for much longer.

On the upside for both Scott and Day must be the slightly softer course conditions at Hoylake. Both are supreme ball strikers and are capable of winning in any conditions, however the more opportunities they have to exert some dominance over the field with their driver in hand, the better.

The course conditions and setup at Hoylake may be just up their alley as they seek to become Australia’s first Open champion since Greg Norman in 1993.