The 147th Open Championship begins at Carnoustie in Scotland today with a host of talking points as the world’s best descend on one of the world’s most demanding links courses.
Can Jordan Spieth successful defend his title? Can a rejuvenated Tiger Woods win his first major in a decade? Can Brooks Koepka win back-to-back majors? Or will a first-time winner have his name engraved on the famous Claret Jug?
Much of the attention will doubtless be focused on Woods, back at the Open for the first time since 2015, having won the last of his three Opens in 2006 and having last tasted major glory in 2008.
Now fit again, and coming off a fourth-placed finish last time out, Woods arrived at Carnoustie with confidence, believing he can win his 15th major.
He also enjoys the course, having finished 12th there in 2007 and seventh in 1999. The unusually hot summer, he says, means the course will ask even more questions of the top players.
“Right now the fairways are faster than the greens,” Woods told the Open’s official website.
“It is mainly about trajectory. You can get the same numbers with different trajectories.
“You can really make the ball roll 60, 70, 80 yards; is it really worth it or not? Some of the holes; can you carry bunkers? It is a risk-reward golf course and the way it is set up right now, it is going to play very narrow because it is so fast.”
Spieth returns as champion, having won at Royal Birkdale, where his birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, par finish secured him his first Open triumph, the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
World number one Dustin Johnson is the bookmakers’ favourite and has three top 10 finishes at the Open, but the likes of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and home favourite Tommy Fleetwood will all be heavily backed.
Fowler, still searching for his first major victory, despite having finished second in all four, is looking forward to the challenge of Carnoustie.
“Tee to green it’s very fast and dry, which is how it should be,” he said.
“There are not too many tricks to the greens, all the tough parts of the course are getting the ball on the green, so tee shots are very demanding, especially when you need to hit driver, even the iron shots off the tees.
“I think it suits me perfectly, I love using my creativity, this is a place that allows you to play the ball in the air if you want to or keep the ball on the ground.”
Koepka, who won his second straight US Open last month, will try to become the first man to win the US Open and Open in the same year since Woods did it in 2000.
Home hopes will be led by Fleetwood, who was second behind Koepka at the US Open, Rose and McIlroy, while Spaniards Sergio Garcia and John Rahm are among the favourites, along with former champions Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson.
And no one will have more belief than Patrick Reed, the confident American who romped to victory in the Masters earlier this year.
“It would mean a lot to win another major,” he told The Guardian. “But you are either a major champion or you are not. Then you are a career grand slam champion. Those are the two bars.
“I want to win them all. My goal is to have the career grand slam at some point in my life. There is nothing better than the Claret Jug, though. I would love to take it home. It means a lot to me.”
Last 10 Open winners
2017 — Jordan Spieth (USA) at Royal Birkdale
2016 — Henrik Stenson (SWE) at Royal Troon
2015 — Zach Johnson (USA) at St Andrews
2014 — Rory McIlroy (NIR) at Hoylake
2013 — Phil Mickelson (USA) at Muirfield
2012 — Ernie Els (RSA) at Royal Lytham
2011 — Darren Clarke (NIR) at Royal St George’s
2010 — Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) at St Andrews
2009 — Stewart Cink (USA) at Turnberry
2008 — Padraig Harrington (IRL) at Royal Birkdale
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