Dan Box
By Dan Box

The Open Championship will be played for the 150th time this week at The Home of Golf, St Andrews, in a long-awaited celebration of the game's oldest and greatest major.

The R&A are expected to see record attendances this week for an Open Championship, and there have already been a number of different festivies including the Celebration of Champions and Jack Nicklaus' honorary citizenship ceremony to help build the excitement.

It's the final men's major of the year, and with the presence of Tiger Woods and the inclusion of LIV golfers at the event, there's going to be plenty to talk about this week.

Last Year

Collin Morikawa was crowned as Champion Golfer of the Year in his first ever appearance at The Open, combining his stellar iron play with a razor-sharp short game to come out on top, two strokes ahead of fellow American Jordan Spieth at Royal St Georges.

Perennial major performer Louis Oosthuizen finished in a tie for third alongside Jon Rahm, with big-hitting South African Dylan Fritelli rounding out the top five.

The Field

Like at the US Open, the R&A decided that those golfers who have signed up to play in the LIV Golf Series would be permitted to attend, given that they had already played well enough to qualify. The invitation didn't stretch as far as LIV Golf frontman Greg Norman though, who was controversially not asked to attend the Celebration of Champions on Monday afternoon.

After a recent run of strong form including a win at the RBC Canadian Open, it's no surprise that the betting favourite this week is Rory McIlroy, who won the Claret Jug bag in 2014 and arrives this week as number two in the World Rankings.

Xander Schauffele has seen his odds slashed after winning in both of his last two starts, including at the Genesis Scottish Open last week.

Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick will be looking to add a Claret Jug to their US Open titles, whilst the American contingent will be led by Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and World Number One Scottie Scheffler along with Schauffele.

Tiger Woods is back in the field this week after skipping the US Open, although we did see him play a couple of rounds at Adare Manor in a final tune-up before St Andrews a couple of weeks ago.

The American has been playing plenty of golf in recent days as he looks to ramp up his last-minute prep, and the firm and fast conditions on the Old Course should provide him with his best chance to compete. In his press conference earlier this week, Woods was asked about the ongoing battle between the PGA and DP World Tours and the LIV Golf Series, and he didn't hold back...

The Course

The Old Course is the most iconic golf course in the world, and the game was played on the grounds as early as the 15th Century.

A traditional out-and-in links course, The Old Course hosts The Open every five years and is well known for its iconic opening and closing hole, as well as signature double greens and fearsome bunkers.

The two most famous traps are the cavernous Hell Bunker which intersects the 14th fairway, and the deep Road Hole Bunker by the 17th green.

The Par 72 layout features two par 5s and two par 3s and stretches out to just under 7,300 yards, the same as it was when Zach Johnson won in a playoff in 2015.

Each time The Open is held at St Andrews the same question seems to be asked - will the course be able to stand up and challenge the players if conditions are benign? There are fears that, with good weather forecasted, scoring could be very low as the course is not very long or particularly penal.

Golfalot Tips...

Cameron Smith @ 25/1

The Australian has established himself among the game's best and his fantastic short game should mean that he is ideally suited to the firm and fast conditions that the Old Course will present. He has already shown that he can compete in the big events over the last couple of years, and finishing T10 at the Scottish Open last week feels like ideal preparation.

Will Zalatoris @ 33/1

Zalatoris has come close to victory a number of times already in his professional career, and the fact that he seems to be able to raise his game for the majors is a very encouraging sign. The only slight reservation is that his links form isn't particularly impressive - he missed the cut by a couple of strokes last week and had to withdraw from The Open last year despite a decent start. The slower greens may suit him a little better though, and his ball-striking is good enough to put him into contention just about anywhere.

Tommy Fleetwood @40/1

Fleetwood comes from a links background and so should feel right at home this week, also aided by the fact that he has twice finished runner up at the Dunhill Links Championship, which includes two rounds on the Old Course. He finished T4 last week at the Scottish Open so should be well primed to challenge this week. At 40/1 he could be a decent bet to finish in the top five.


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