Birk­dale the most Open Champs

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

LON­DON: The 146th Open Cham­pi­onship, which will be staged at Royal Birk­dale Club, looks set to be the most open in re­cent mem­ory.

Hen­rik Sten­son of Swe­den de­fends the ti­tle but a case could be made for about 30 play­ers on a links course that, if the wind blows, will be a test of skill and pa­tience.

While Tiger Woods is still in­jured, many of the other big names are also strug­gling.

World No 1 Dustin John­son is look­ing to re­dis­cover top form af­ter the freak in­jury he suf­fered at the Masters, when he slipped on a wooden floor and hurt his back.

John­son will have to be at his best on a course just north of Liver­pool, which last hosted the Open in 2008, when Ire­land’s Padraig Har­ring­ton won.

Rory McIl­roy, the 2014 win­ner, missed his last two cuts, at the Ir­ish Open and Scot­tish Open.

How­ever Ser­gio Gar­cia, the Masters cham­pion, lifted a weight off his shoul­ders when he won his first ma­jor ti­tle at Au­gusta in April. Sec­ond twice in the Open, Gar­cia ar­rives with plenty of con­fi­dence.

“Every­body knows how much I love the Open and I’d love to have at least one of them be­fore I hang up my boots,” he said

Justin Rose was pipped by Gar­cia at the Masters but has the pedi­gree to do well.

“In 2017 I’m look­ing to re-iden­tify my­self by win­ning th­ese ma­jor cham­pi­onships, be­cause I can’t let th­ese years slip by,” he told reporters.

Amer­i­cans Jordan Spi­eth, Phil Mick­el­son and Ricky Fowler, Aus­tralian Adam Scott, and Span­ish sen­sa­tion John Rahm are fan­cied to do well.

Lo­cal hero Tommy Fleet­wood will have the fans on his side, the 26-year-old from Southport, try­ing to be­come the first English­man to win the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992.

“To win the Open at Birk­dale would be the ul­ti­mate,” said Fleet­wood, who fin­ished fourth at the US Open.

“Do­ing it any­where is a dream but to win it five min­utes from where you grew up, there would be noth­ing more spe­cial than that.”

Har­ring­ton, the win­ner nine years ago, showed nice form when he fin­ished fourth at the Scot­tish Open.

“I al­ways go back to the Shane Lowry quote: ‘I think I’m go­ing to win even when I’m not play­ing’,” he said on Mon­day.

“I come in this week with a bit of form so I’m look­ing to play good and con­tend. I’m some­thing of a de­fend­ing cham­pion here too, so I want to take it all in and en­joy the good feel­ings here.” – dpa

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