Looking forward to The Open Championship

St Andrews is due to host it’s 29th Open Championship starting tomorrow, and we are looking at a tournament that could be one of the closest run things yet. 156 players will start the event on Thursday, but only one can go to sleep on Sunday night as the champion.

The Course

The Old Course at St Andrews may well be the most famous golf course in the world, it is certainly one of the oldest. The ‘home of golf’ was first played in the early 1400’s, and has made it through countless wars, threats and even a nationwide golfing ban, enforced by King Henry II, after he claimed too many men were practicing their swing instead of their archery skills.

Since holding its first Open Championship in 1873, the Americans have dominated the event, winning ten out of the 29 tournaments hosted. Jack Nicklaus has won it three times, Tiger Woods just has the two. However, all events prior to 1921 were won by Englishmen or a Scot – some ancient hope for British competitors then.

One of the unique features of the Old Course are the large double greens. Seven greens are shared by two holes each, with hole numbers adding up to 18 (2nd paired with 16th, 3rd with 15th, all the way up to 8th and 10th). The 700-year old Swilican Bridge, spanning the first and 18th holes, has become a famous icon for golf in the world.

This year, the course plays as a 72-par with a total yardage of 7,305. There are two par 5’s (one out, one in), 15 par 4’s, and just one par 3.

jack-nicklaus-on-swilican-bridge
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus waves from the Swilcan Bridge as he makes his way to complete his final round ever in the British Open Golf Championship, on the Old Course at St. Andrews

The Favourites

After Rory McIlroy damaged his ankle in an “unfortunately timed footballing incident”, Jordan Spieth has rightly taken up favouritism for the event. His US Open win at a similar course that was Chambers Bay means that he has the ability to win at demanding links courses, and he is in the form of his short life.

However, young Rickie Fowler has just won the Scottish Open at a windy East Lothian course. His winning course and St Andrews share some characteristics in that if you deviate from the fairway you end up in thick foliage, the bunkers are huge, and the wind kicks up a stink.

But, I think the winner could come from looking at the 2010 Open Championship, the last at St Andrews. The winner then was South African Louis Oosthuizen. He has another good chance at making it two at St Andrews, and he should feature.

Louis Oosthuizen 2010 Open
South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen with the Claret Jug, the trophy for the Champion golfer of the year after winning the 139th British Open Golf Championship at St Andrews

Willibrordus Adrianus Maria may not be a name that comes as familiar, but his nickname Joost should give away the identity of another challenger for the title. Joost Luiten played some good golf at the Scottish Open, and if that carries over, should do well over another links course in Scotland.

Finally, Bubba Watson should be watched very closely. His unique pink driver will help him navigate long fairways, and his exceptional driving distance should see him get past mid-fairway bunkers that will trouble other golfers.

My Prediction

I really like Rickie Fowler, but he has shown little of his promise so far. However, his season to date has been fairly steady. His win The Players Championship would have been the highlight of his season, but he disappointed at the US Open where he failed to make the cut.

But, his recent win at The Scottish Open puts him in a great position to take his first ever Open Championship.

rickie-fowler-wins-the-players
Rickie Fowler holds the The Players Championship trophy

Tiger Woods has all but lost it. His charm that won him plaudits as well as titles has gone, but I think he could surprise a few at St Andrews. I don’t expect he will win it – or even come close – but I think a top 25 finish could be on the cards, and don’t be surprised if you see him on the leaderboard come the second day.

Whatever happens, we are sure to be in for a cracker.

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