Birkdale the most Open Champs
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