Open preview: Leishman the fancied Aussie

Marc Leishman
Marc Leishman, who has shown his links game proficiency several times at The Open, tunes his game at Carnoustie.

Carnoustie – aka ‘Carnasty’ – has not been kind to Australians.

From Peter Thomson’s second-place finish to Ben Hogan in 1953 to Jack Newton’s playoff defeat by Tom Watson in 1975, and even Craig Parry’s near-miss in 1999, Aussies have tended to go by the wayside in the Open Championships held at the famous public links in Angus on the east coast of Scotland.

Newton came closest. In 1975 he had a putt to win the Open outright in the fourth round that stopped short and right, leaving him in a playoff with Watson, who was about to win the first of his five Open Championships. In the 18-hole playoff Watson went down the last a shot ahead and made par; Newton had a five-metre par-saving putt to extend it, but it burned the hole, leaving him second.

Parry was in the final group in 1999 alongside John Van de Velde, the Frenchman whose complete meltdown on the 18th hole has gone into the annals. The little Sydneysider ultimately finished second a shot out of the playoff after watching Van de Velde strip his shoes and socks off and wade into the Barry Burn.

Carnoustie is the toughest of the Open Championship venues by repute, and nicknamed ‘Carnasty’ after the tumult of 1999 when Australia’s Rod Pampling led through the first round but then missed the cut. The presence of the fabled Barry Burn, which snakes across in front of the 18th green and then zig-zags back up the 17th and across the course, adds to the mystique.

This time around, the fairways are baked hard, which will make it interesting to say the least. Padraig Harrington (who won at Carnoustie in 2007) hit his tee shot into the Barry Burn in front of the 18th green recently downwind, a distance of 400 metres. Brandt Snedeker also took to social media to tell of tee shots running out beyond 400 metres.

It means that the crooked hitters are going to run into the deeper rough and the longer hitters will confront the choice of lay-ups or bombing at the greens on the par-fours. Marc Leishman, for instance, hit a seven iron tee shot on a par-four in practice just to keep himself out of one of the pot bunkers. We will see some of that this week, and comparisons have been made to Royal Liverpool in 2006, when Tiger Woods only hit one driver all week and took home the claret jug.

Woods, who incidentally, likes his chances here,  hit a 300-metre three iron shot the other day to show how much run-out there actually is at Carnoustie this week.

Jason Day, the highest-ranked Australian, told Golf Australia magazine: "It takes out the bigger clubs and I think I'm long enough to be able to hit it.

"I feel like I play my long irons pretty well. I hit them nice and high. I can hit them low too. So when the conditions are nice and dry like this, I can use the whole golf course to my advantage with my length.

"So I'm excited in that regard, but I've still got to go and play the front side tomorrow and see what I'm going to do there because I haven't even touched my three wood or my driver yet."

There are eight Australians in the field, including 22-year-old Lucas Herbert from Victoria and 23-year-old Sydney talent Cameron Davis, both on debut, Davis having qualified with and incredible final round to win the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian last November.

Carnoustie golf links
Carnoustie is ready for another Open Championship. Image: Getty

The favoured one is Marc Leishman, the 33-year-old from Warrnambool on Victoria’s west coast who grew up playing golf in the wind, and who has shown a penchant for playing the links.

Leishman’s last four Opens have included a tied-fifth (2014), tied-second (2015, when he made a playoff with Zac Johnson) and tied-sixth last year, which is strong form. Having won twice in America last year and ranked 18th in the world, the big Victorian is playing the best golf of his life.

Adam Scott would be the fairytale winner this week, having come so close so many times including 2012 when his four, consecutive bogeys to close at Royal Lytham saw him throw away a title that was his, gifting the win to Ernie Els.

Scott has Fanny Sunesson on his bag this week in an interesting move, Sunesson having previously caddied for Nick Faldo during his greatest years along with Henrik Stenson. The Australian recently parted from Englishman David Clark who had looped for him the previous couple of years.

Carnoustie has a nice tribute to the late Peter Thomson behind the 18th green after the five-time Open champion passed recently in Melbourne. It would be a highly appropriate week for an antipodean to salute. Watch this space.

The 147th Open begins Thursday afternoon (Australian eastern time) with television coverage through Fox Sports. Click here to view TV schedule.
 

AUSTRALIAN TEE TIMES, ROUND ONE:

8.36pm: Cameron Davis (AUS), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Sam Locke (SCO)

9.53pm: Marc Leishman (AUS), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)

10.15pm: Adam Scott (AUS), Zach Johnson (USA), Brendan Steele (USA)

10: 37pm: Jason Day (AUS), Li Haotong (CHN), Shota Akiyoshi (JPN)

11.37pm: Lucas Herbert (AUS), Min Chei Choi (KOR), Jason Kokrak (USA)

11.59pm: Cameron Smith (AUS), Brooks Koepka (USA), Ian Poulter (ENG)

1.05am: Brett Rumford (AUS), Masanori Kobayashi (JPN), Jack Senior (ENG)

1.16am: Matt Jones (AUS), Curtis Thomas (ENG), Bronson Burgoon (USA)

*Thursday AEST

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