Date: July 09, 2008
Author: John Clark

Baker-Finch: Stars will struggle

The last Australian to win the British Open at Royal Birkdale believes those on Tiger Woods&apos tail in the world rankings will struggle with the weight of major expectation next week. Woods, the dominant world No.1 and three-time Open champion, will not be in action when the tournament returns to Birkdale as he continues to recover from season-ending knee surgery. His absence means the race for the year&aposs third major crown looms as a wide-open one but Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 champion at the Southport course, says Woods&apos nonattendance could prove an obstacle for the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Australian Adam Scott. “I have an idea that some of the guys won&apost perform in Tiger&aposs absence because they are expected to perform,” Baker-Finch explained from his base in Florida on Wednesday afternoon (AEST). “I am not saying, yes, Phil, but guys like the top players who are expected to do well.” “Guys like Sergio (Garcia), Ernie, Adam, Phil. All of the next rung of players, whoever they are, everyone is expecting them to do well in the majors without Tiger there.” “I think some of them will perform worse because there is more pressure on them. It&aposs like &aposOK, we&aposve got a couple of majors here without Tiger, this is my big chance&apos. I think that will put more pressure on them.” Baker-Finch stormed to victory 17 years ago with a stunning final-round 66 to defeat compatriot Mike Harwood by two shots. He says the strong Australian contingent preparing for an assault on this year&aposs championship can break a 25-year drought at the Open. “We are held in high regard as a group of Australian players wherever we go play,” Baker-Finch said. “In the majors now there are certainly five or six guys that are looked at every time a major is played.” “Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy is a US Open champ, Allenby, Appleby, Baddeley, Nick O&aposHern, Rod Pampling. There&aposs a whole bunch of guys there that you think could be champions.” Greg Norman, the last Australian to lift the Claret Jug in 1993, is joined by 16 countrymen in the field. While Baker-Finch has caught up with some of the Australian chances, newlywed Norman hasn&apost come to him for advice. “Greg was going to give me a call but he had some more important things going on. I didn&apost hear from him,” Baker-Finch quipped. “I didn&apost get an invite. They tell me it was a pretty big affair,” he said of Norman&aposs lavish wedding to Chris Evert.