Six-time British Open competitor Nick O’Hern believes Marc Leishman’s all-around game and tournament history makes the Victorian Australia’s best chance of breaking a 26-year drought at golf’s oldest major championship.

Marc LeishmanThe Open tees off at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland on Thursday afternoon Australian Eastern Standard Time with Leishman one of six Aussies in the field along with Kiwi Ryan Fox, PGA TOUR regulars Jason Day, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith joined by Jake McLeod and Dimitrios Papadatos, who qualified by finishing top three at the 2018 Australian Open.

When Greg Norman won his second Open Championship at Royal St George’s in 1993, it marked the fourth win by an Australian in the space of eight years, but we have been unable to break through in the almost three decades since.

Leishman and Scott have each finished second in 2015 and 2012 respectively and it is Leishman who O’Hern has tagged as our leading prospect this week.

Rain is expected for each of the four days of the championship with a forecast high for the week of just 19 degrees on Sunday, conditions that will not be unfamiliar to Warrnambool-raised Leishman, who tees off at 10.26pm (AEST) alongside former Masters champions Jordan Spieth and Danny Willett.

“Leish has all the shots variety-wise and for me he’s the favourite amongst the Aussies,” O’Hern said.

“The Open certainly favours players who are better ball-strikers than putters. You still need to hole putts but if you can control the flight of your ball and really work it around, it just works so much in your favour.

“The one thing you can’t do playing links golf is get in those pot bunkers, so to be able to control your flight off the tee and into the greens is crucial. Regular tournament, no problem, you can hit out of fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers, links golf a lot of the time you’re going out sideways or backwards.

“It’s just an automatic penalty so that’s where the ball-striking comes into it.”

Renowned as one of the premier ball-strikers on the planet, O’Hern says that the slower greens at an Open Championship opens the door for Scott to once again contend as he did at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s seven years ago.

“I remember playing Opens at St Andrews and you’d walk from the fairway onto the green and not actually realise you had walked onto the green because the grass all looked the same,” O’Hern said.

“Some people handle that really well, others can’t believe how slow they are and can’t get the ball to the hole.

“The quicker the greens you tend to make more putts, but the slower the greens you tend to see more two-putts, so it’s an interesting dynamic in that sense.

“Scotty is one of the best ball-strikers going around so if he has a good putting week he’s always going to be up there.”

Scott has spent the past couple of weeks reacquainting himself with links golf and picking the brain of Northern Irishman Darren Clarke as to the keys to playing well around Royal Portrush, time O’Hern insists will have been well spent.

“Weather determines everything over there. Getting the right side of the draw or the wrong side,” added O’Hern, whose best result at The Open was a tie for 15th at St Andrews in 2005.

“It’s how you best adapt to those conditions. I like the guys that have been there the last couple of weeks playing the Irish and Scottish Opens and other venues around.

“They’ve put all the prep and the work in so they’ll be very adjusted to speed of greens and things like that.

“Links style just opens up a whole variety of possibilities and the guys that handle that best are the ones that have the most unique imaginations, and they tend to be the better players.

“I love watching Rickie Fowler play because he tends to change trajectories and really has a good grasp on flighting his shots whereas a lot of players tend to just hit the ball high and long.

“It was great to see Phil Mickelson win an Open because I remember being at Opens and seeing him spend half an hour on a green mapping out every possible scenario. He really did his homework and figured out how to play those links golf courses.

“It looks to me like Jon Rahm has got a pretty good handle on links golf winning another Irish Open two weeks ago and then there’s the usual names such as Brooks, Koepka, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.

“But the beautiful thing about The Open is that it can bring out a winner who is just completely unexpected such as a Ben Curtis or a Todd Hamilton.

“Links golf is certainly not about being perfect, it’s a matter of controlling the ball flight and using the course to your advantage which week in, week out you just don’t get on tournament courses.

“Which is why it’s my favourite event of the year.”

Australasian in action at The Open

Adam Scott

Round 1 (6.58pm AEST): Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

World Ranking: 16

Best finish in 2019: 2nd at Farmers Insurance Open, 2nd at The Memorial (PGA TOUR)

Best finish in The Open: 2nd at Royal Lytham & St Annes (2012)

Best finish in a major: 1st, 2013 Masters

How he qualified: Top 50 in Official World Golf Ranking as of Week 21, 2019

Jason Day

Round 1 (11.59pm AEST): Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley

World Ranking: 18

Best finish in 2019: T4 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (PGA TOUR)

Best finish at The Open: T4 at St Andrews (2015)

Best finish in a major: 1st, 2015 US PGA Championship

How he qualified: The PGA Champions for 2014-2019

Marc Leishman

Round 1 (10.26pm): Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett

World Ranking: 24

Best finish in 2019: T3 Sony Open (PGA TOUR)

Best finish at The Open: T2 at St Andrews (2015)

Best finish in a major: T2, 2015 Open Championship

How he qualified: Top 30 players from the Final 2018 FedEx Cup Points List

Cameron Smith

Round 1 (10.37pm): Adam Hadwin, David Lipsky

World Ranking: 42

Best finish in 2019: T6 at WGC-Mexico Championship (PGA TOUR)

Best finish in The Open: 78th at Carnoustie (2018)

Best finish in a major: T4, 2015 US Open

How he qualified: Top 30 players from the Final 2018 FedEx Cup Points List

Ryan Fox

Round 1 (9.31pm): Shaun Norris, Dongkyu Jang

World Ranking: 107

Best finish in 2019: 1st ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth (European Tour)

Best finish in The Open: T39 at Carnoustie (2018)

Best finish in a major: T27, 2018 PGA Championship

How he qualified: First 30 in the Final Race to Dubai Rankings for 2018

Jake McLeod

Round 1 (9.20pm): Erik Van Rooyen, Kurt Kitayama

World Ranking: 194

Best finish in 2019: T20 CommercialBank Qatar Masters (European Tour)

Best finish in The Open: First appearance

Best finish in a major: First appearance

How he qualified: Top 3 Australian Open (The Open Qualifying Series)

Dimi Papadatos

Round 1 (8.58pm): Joel Dahmen, Adri Arnaus

World Ranking: 229

Best finish in 2019: T15 Betfred British Masters (European Tour)

Best finish in The Open: First appearance

Best finish in a major: First appearance

How he qualified: Top 3 Australian Open (The Open Qualifying Series)