The 140th British Open gets underway tomorrow with all eyes on Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the record breaking US open Champion making his return to competitive golf after enjoying a few weeks off to savour his fantastic victory at Congressional.
With all the attention being directed towards the Holywood native it’s easy to forget that rest of the World’s top golfer’s are also in Scotland however World number one, Luke Donald, on the back of winning the 54 hole Scottish open, Lee Westwood and last years winner Louis Oosthuizen will all be looking to capture the claret jug.
With Donald and Westwood, the current one and two players in the World, not to mention McIlroy’s and Graeme McDowell’s recent success in majors, the British and Irish golf scene is enjoying a massive resurgence not seen since the days of Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Colin Montgomery.
Throw into the mix two-time winner Padraig Harrington as well as Ian Poulter and you get an idea of how hard it is to win the Claret Jug and we’ve not mentioned the 52 American’s who are in the field.
Winning a major used to be reserved for the more exceptional and experienced golfer’s on the circuit however the wins of the admittedly very talented duo McIlroy and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel show that Golf is very slowly becoming a younger man’s game.
That said Phil Mickelson, the last America to win a major, at US Master’s in 2010 remains a threat at any golfing competition but with just 5 American’s making the top 10 in the first two major’s of the year, Mickelson is being sadly let down by his compatriots.
American’s rising stars of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney haven’t yet to finish inside the top-20 in any majors while Kevin Chappell, joint 3rd at the U.S. Open, the best American finish in a major this year, is not playing this week
Of course the one American golfer people love to see at a Major is missing, as Tiger Woods continues to recover from injury.
However you can only beat what’s in front of you, and that’s what McIlroy will aim to do when he tee’s off at the British Open at 9.09am on Thursday morning hoping to recapture the form that took him to his first major win in June.
McIlroy, equalled the course record last year with a stunning 63 in the first round, is paired with American Rickie Fowler and Ernie Els; a man who has been there before, winning the British Open nine years ago.
Fowler was paired with McIlroy for the first two days of his record breaking win at the US Open until McIlroy started to pull away from the rest and the young American missed the cut after he failed to settle down and ended on 5-over par.
Harrington will get his tournament underway at 1.21pm and is paired with American Matt Kuchar and UK Amateur champion, the Australian Bryden Macpherson.
Harrington’s Scottish Open saw the Dublin man getting back to form with a high place finish tied for 14th, and the Open Championship provides the perfect platform for him to perform on, having won back-to-back titles in 07 and 08.
McDowell’s Scottish Open didn’t end the way he would have liked but the Northern Ireland man can take positives from his first 36 holes at Castle Stuart Links golf club last week before a disaster of a last day saw him finish tied for 42, finishing on nine-under par for the tournament.
McDowell will need to be at his best alongside his pairing of Australian Jason Day, who has finished second at the last two majors this year, and American Bubba Watson, who has won two PGA tour events this year; their tee-off time, will be at 1.43pm.
Fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke will tee off at 12.59pm and is paired with Jonathan Byrd and YE Yang.
Clarke’s opening two rounds at the Scottish Open saw him on eight-under before his final day score let him down once again and he finished on five-under for the tournament after a 75 on the last day.
Luke Donald meanwhile is paired with 19 year old Japanese prospect Ryo Ishikawa and Spaniard Sergio Garcia while world number two and last year’s runner up Lee Westwood tees off with recent John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
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