With an un­for­giv­ing course and some of the world’s top play­ers chal­leng­ing for first place, the ac­tion at Royal Birk­dale is set to keep fans on their toes

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

When the 146th Bri­tish Open tees off at Royal Birk­dale Golf Club in South­port, Lon­don, on Thurs­day, all eyes will be on de­fend­ing cham­pion Hen­rik Sten­son. The Swedish idol’s name is still etched in the minds of many play­ers and fans fol­low­ing his heroic feat at last year’s event at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scot­land, where he set a record by post­ing -20 and be­came the Bri­tish Open’s high­est un­der par scorer in its his­tory.

Sten­son sur­passed the feat ac­com­plished by Tiger Woods, who had carded -19 to lead the pack at the con­test staged at St An­drews Links, also in Scot­land, in 2000.

Sten­son is the first Swedish pro­fes­sional golfer in his­tory to win the ma­jor Bri­tish Open.

And he is hell-bent on set­ting a new par mar­gin record when he tees it up against some of the world’s finest in the year’s penul­ti­mate big one.

But Sten­son, who edged out vet­eran Amer­i­can Phil Mick­el­son by three strokes to get his hands on the Claret Jug, will be up against a strong chal­lenge from some of the pre­vi­ous win­ners.

“Lefty”, as Mick­el­son is nick­named be­cause of his left-hand swing, will be mak­ing a re­turn to this year’s edi­tion hop­ing to re­peat the show­ing that saw him snatch the 2013 edi­tion at Muir­field in Scot­land by beat­ing Sten­son by three shots.

Other top dogs ex­pected to steal the thun­der in­clude Ser­gio Gar­cia from Spain, Jor­dan Spi­eth from the US, Lee West­wood from Eng­land and Ja­son Day from Aus­tralia.

The im­por­tant as­pect of the up­com­ing Bri­tish Open is that it will be com­ing back to Royal Birk­dale af­ter an eight-year ab­sence. The last time it was at the venue was in 2008, when Ire­land’s Pádraig Har­ring­ton made a suc­cess­ful de­fence by beat­ing Ian Poul­ter by four strokes.

The Scot­land course it­self will be quite un­for­giv­ing to play­ers as the greens will not be easy to ma­noeu­vre. This was clearly demon­strated when Har­ring­ton carded three over par in his pre­vi­ous vic­tory there.

Com­peti­tors can ex­pect a tough time as holes one and 15 are chal­leng­ing, and will make for atro­cious play for some of the com­peti­tors.

South Africa is rep­re­sented by the usual sus­pects, in­clud­ing Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Bran­don Stone and Richard Sterne, who are listed as among those who will com­pete in the big tour­na­ment.

High­est par scor­ers at Open

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