Links golf is the original form of the game . Developed in Scotland by mother nature and Scottish pragmatism , links courses are located next to the sea and are characterized by firm , sandy fairways , long , wispy rough , pot bunkers and plenty of wind . The Open is the oldest golf tournament in the world . It was first played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland , in 1860 . The first championship had a field of eight professionals and was held over three , twelve-hole rounds , in a single day .
Greatness can be achieved over time , over a career of excellence . Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors or Gary Player’s 140 worldwide wins . It can also be achieved in a day , or even a moment . Ben Curtis started the final round of the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St Georges (Sandwich) , a complete unknown . Mike Weir , the Masters champion that year , had sat down opposite Curtis , in the clubhouse before the start of the championship and a friendly conversation started between the two . Weir innocently asked Curtis if he worked at the club and was suitably embarrassed when Ben sheepishly told him that he was in fact playing in The Open .
A few days later , Curtis stood on the first tee early on Sunday afternoon , not knowing that the next 5 hours would change his life . He played 11 holes of scarcely believably golf and then hung on , holing a 10 footer on the 18th to card a final round 69 , to post 1 under par . Less than an hour later , he was Open Champion . Not until Thomas Bjorn’s ball slid past the hole at 18 , could Ben Curtis ever have allowed himself to dream , let alone believe , that he would write his name alongside the greats of the game and forever be etched in golfing history . All this in his first ever major championship start .
Eleven years on and 156 players , the great and the good , will be looking to write their own chapter in Open Championship history . This year , The Open returns to Royal Liverpool Golf Club (Hoylake) , for the 12th time , the first since 2006 . That year , Tiger Woods put on a long iron clinic , eventually prevailing by 2 shots over fellow American Chris DiMarco . Tiger is back to compete in his first major of the year and will headline a star-studded field .
Players to look out for this week :
Dustin Johnson : The big hitting American has been quiet of late , after a hot start to the year . A T4 at the U.S. Open though , shows signs are good . I feel that Hoylake will fit his game beautifully and I think the time is now for the talented 30 year old to break through and win his first major . Dustin is my number 1 tip to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday .
Justin Rose : Justin is coming off wins in his last 2 starts , at Congressional in Washington and at last week’s Scottish Open . He is looking to become the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992 and judging by his current form , he might just do it . One hurdle he will have to overcome is a very disappointing Open record . He hasn’t had a top 10 in the championship since that remarkable T4 as an amateur in 1998 and has missed the cut in 3 of his last 4 starts . I personally don’t feel this will be his week , but he is certainly one of the favourites .
Henrik Stenson : The powerful Swede is the number 2 player in the world and has shown signs of late of returning to something close to his unbelievable form of last year . A T4 at the U.S. Open and a playoff loss in Germany a couple of weeks ago prove his game is starting to click into gear . With three top 3’s in his last 6 starts at The Open , it will be a surprise to no one if he becomes the first Swedish man to win a major, this week .
Martin Kaymer : It was remiss of me to leave Martin out of my U.S. Open picks and he proved it in empathetic fashion , with a Tigeresque display , blowing the field away by 8 strokes . With wins in two of the three biggest tournaments of the year so far , The Players and the U.S. Open , Martin is in my mind the best player on the planet at the moment . Known as Martian to some of his contemporaries because his golf is out of this world , he has had 1 top ten in 6 starts at The Open , but with his swing changes now on automatic pilot and his confidence at an all time high , this could be the week he completes the “Kaymer triple crown” .
Rory Mcilroy : Golf’s newest playboy , Rory is always going to be a factor in the game’s biggest events . He’s got power and talent to burn and if he can get over a nasty habit over 2nd round blow-ups , he’ll be right in the hunt come Sunday afternoon . He would be my 2nd favourite this week .
Phil Mickelson : Phil has had a dismal 12 months on the golf course , since perhaps his greatest triumph , at Muirfield last year . With just one top ten this year , it will take an inspired performance to reclaim the Claret Jug .
Sergio Garcia : It’s time for Sergio to step it up at a major again . He hasn’t seriously contended in one since the 2008 P.G.A. Championship and has been left behind by many of his contemporaries . A solid year , including a T2 in his last start proves that if he can get out of his head and just play golf , free and easy , like in his youth , then this could be his breakthrough week . Sergio is my 3rd favourite this week .
Tiger Woods : I couldn’t really leave Tiger off the contenders list , despite him having no form and being just back from injury . In his only start since his return from back surgery , he missed the cut in his own tournament in Washington D.C. . Tiger is Tiger though and with his last Open triumph being that win at Hoylake in 2006 , one can never write him off . Winning a 15th major title after over 6 barren major years is a long shot though , despite the bookies having him as their favourite .
That’s my shortlist of players to watch , but there are many more could claim the fabled Claret Jug and be read out as “The Champion Golfer of The Year” come Sunday night .