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Can McIlroy storm to victory in the Australian Open?

Aussie sports fans are beaming from ear to ear at the moment and it’s not just because of the cricket. Adam Scott and Jason Day won the World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne last week in some style and there are high hopes that one or the other of them will now follow up with a victory in the Emirates Australian Open, which tees off at Sydney tomorrow morning.

World number two Scott is 11/4 favourite with Coral after landing both the Aussie PGA and Masters in recent weeks, while Day, who captured the individual prize in Melbourne, is a 13/2 shot.

Separating the two ‘Home Boys’ in the betting is Rory McIlroy (6/1) and this talented trio are very much the main men in the tournament, so much so that Coral are offering 19/20 the winner of the Australian Open will be one of the ‘Big Three’, 4/5 The Field.

It’s not that ‘The Field’ is weak. Far from it: several past champions of this prestigious tournament will be giving it another good shot, including dual winners Greg Chalmers (25/1), Aaron Baddeley (28/1), Robert Allenby (40/1) and Peter Senior (80/1), who, at the age of 53,  recorded a remarkable victory in gale force winds 12 months ago, 23 years after his first triumph.

But good players though they all are, they are this weekend up against three of the best in the world either on top of their games (Scott and Day) or very close to it (McIlroy).

Scott, who became the first Australian to win the US Masters last April, is back in the same sort of form, but the spotlight on him will be intense as he goes for the ‘Triple Crown.’

Day raised his game to win in Melbourne, as many suspected he would, to honour the memory of the eight members of his family who died in the Philippines typhoon. But one can only wonder at how emotionally draining that must have been and it is surely asking too much that he can come out and do it again.

So McIlory might well be the answer. The former world number one has had pretty ordinary year, but there have been clear sings of a return to his best in recent weeks (top six finishes in Shanghai and Dubai) and just for once he will be flying just under the radar.

It has to be said that history is not on his side. Lee Westwood is the only European to have won the Australian Open, back in 1997, since when it has been won every year bar one by a home player – Coral go 2/9 that is again stays Down Under.

But going further back, there are some legendary names on this trophy, including Greg Norman (a five-time winner), Jack Nicklaus (six wins) and Gary Player (seven), so in this regard, the brilliant young Ulsterman would not be entirely out of place.