The wait is almost over
As final preparations for The 145th Open started to draw to a close today, thoughts started to turn towards who would be lifting the Claret Jug on Royal Troon’s 18th green on Sunday.
It would be true to say that while many observers have concentrated their attention on golf’s current ‘Big Four’ of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the competition is far too strong to narrow the field down to just four players.
This will be the ninth time Royal Troon has staged golf’s oldest championship. By common consent the course is in pristine condition, ready for all that the world’s greatest players can throw at it. The beauty of links golf, particularly when the wind gets up, is that it tests every aspect of a player’s game, both physically and mentally. Royal Troon will be no exception.
Everywhere you look this week, stories abound. How fitting that Colin Montgomerie, the town of Troon’s favourite son, will have the honour of hitting The Open’s first tee shot at 6.35am. “That’s not early Thursday, that’s late Wednesday!” Monty joked.
Even so, at 53, Montgomerie is rightly proud to have qualified to play in The Open for the first time since 2010. Playing alongside him will be Luke Donald, the former world No1, and Australia’s Marc Leishman, who was a runner-up last year. As tournament send-offs go, they do not get much better.
It is intriguing that the last six times The Open has been played here have been won by Americans, in order: Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton. Can they keep the run going? Only time will tell.
The challenge from across the Atlantic, however, is certain to be a fierce one, with Johnson, the current US Open champion, and Spieth to the fore. That’s not forgetting Zach Johnson, who lifted the Claret Jug last year, Bubba Watson, the world No.5 and two-time Masters champion, and the incomparable Phil Mickelson, the Champion Golfer of the Year in 2013.
McIlroy, meanwhile, will be looking to make up for lost time. The Champion Golfer of the Year in 2014, he was unable to defend his title at St Andrews after injuring his ankle playing football. This year, he is fit and raring to go. As is Day, who is hoping to become the first Australian to win The Open since Greg Norman in 1993.
At this stage, it is too early to predict the outcome – other than to say we are in for a feast of golf played at the very highest level. And for one player among the 156-man field, Royal Troon is about to become his Theatre of Dreams. Who will it be? No one knows. And that’s its beauty.