Sport Golf Aussies lead the charge at deeply divided British Open

Aussies lead the charge at deeply divided British Open

Adam Scott heads for the clubhouse on the 18th hole of a round that saw him storm up the leader board. Photo: Getty
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Birthday boy Adam Scott plans on keeping his foot flat to the floor in a bid to run down fellow Australian Cameron Smith, banish his decade-old British Open demons and finally claim golf’s coveted Claret Jug.

It’s an old fashioned race for the trophy and comes as the storied event at St Andrews finds golf’s Saudi-backed breakaway bunch comes out swinging against the establishment.

Scott continued his stirring fightback after a disastrous opening on Thursday to reignite his title quest with a blazing seven-under-par 65 – his best-ever round in 22 Open appearances.

But despite soaring from 55th into a tie for eighth at seven under, Scott still finds himself playing catch-up after great mate Smith set the hottest halfway pace.

Australians at the fore

With a 13-under, 36-hole total of 131 following brilliant rounds of 67-64, Smith is six shots clear of Scott (72-65) and seven ahead of fellow Australian pursuers Min Woo Lee (69-69) and Lucas Herbert (70-68) in a share of 12th place.

Turning 42 on Saturday, Scott didn’t skip a beat when asked what he wished for as a third-round present.

“Another 65 would be acceptable,” said the former world No.1 – a decade after suffering the torment of blowing a four-shot lead with four holes to play at Royal Lytham and St Annes to gift Ernie Els the trophy.

“You don’t need much extra motivation at an Open championship but anytime I think about letting one slip through my hands, it hurts,” Scott said.

“And it would be exciting if I shot a really great round tomorrow to tee off with a legitimate feeling that I’m in contention.

“Not only for the fact that I haven’t really been in that position for a major for a little while, but also for the fact that I’ve had one hand on this jug, I feel like, and I’d like to put two on.”

How the Aussies are faring at St Andrews:

  • 131 (67-64): Cameron Smith – leader
  • 137 (72-65): Adam Scott – T8th
  • 138 (69-69): Min Woo Lee – T12th
  • 138 (70-68): Lucas Herbert – T12th
  • 140 (68-72): Brad Kennedy – T25th
  • 143 (74-69): Anthony Quayle – T55th
  • 143 (72-71): Jason Scrivener – T55th

Meanwhile, the rebels who have created a major rift in the world of golf by defecting to the Saudi-funded LIV series are working together for a common cause at the British Open this week.

“Everybody, it feels like, is against us,” said Talor Gooch, one of the 24 LIV golfers playing at St Andrews. “And that’s OK. It’s kind of banded us together, I think.”

Greg Norman not wanted

Such has been the R&A’s desire to stop the LIV saga from disrupting the 150th British Open that the tour’s CEO, Greg Norman, was told to not attend the pre-tournament dinner at St Andrews for past champions.

That 24 has been whittled down to an 11-strong group who will play the weekend at the home of golf.

Five were sitting in the top 20 after the second round Friday. Two were in the top 10. One, possibly the biggest fish in LIV’s pool in Dustin Johnson, is in fifth place and four shots off the lead.

There remains a distinct possibility – much to the chagrin of the R&A, no doubt – that a player from the LIV tour could be lifting the claret jug on Sunday evening.

Norman is a two-winner winner. Phil Mickelson, the 2013 champion and now a LIV player, also didn’t attend the dinner, saying the R&A told him the club didn’t think it was a good idea he went.

But the story is casting something of a shadow over the event.

There have been noticeable jeers for Ian Poulter, another of the defectors, as he hit his opening tee shots in both of his rounds – even if he claimed to not have heard them.

Johnson said he has been able to put any negativity and criticism to one side.

Everyone’s a critic

“I don’t read. I don’t look at it,” the former No.1 said. “It doesn’t bother me because, obviously, everyone has their own opinion and I have mine, and the only one I care about is mine.”

Johnson, who shot five-under 67 to move to nine under for the week, is contending at a major for the first time this year.

Gooch is the other LIV player in the top 10, he is tied for eighth at seven under and is looking to improve on his best finish in seven previous appearances at a major – a tie for 14th at the Masters in April.