TROON, United Kingdom: The British Open returns to Royal Troon on Scotland’s west coast this week with Rory McIlroy back in the field having been unable to defend the Claret Jug a year ago due to injury.
The Northern Irishman, who leads a host of the sport’s biggest names to have withdrawn in controversial circumstances from next month’s Rio Olympics, is bidding to win his fifth major and second Open after his victory at Hoylake, near Liverpool, in 2014.
Twelve months ago McIlroy was missing from the field in St Andrews after suffering an ankle injury while playing a game of football with friends.
He missed the cut at last month’s US Open but showed promise when he finished third at the recent French Open before making his way to Scotland to prepare for the unique challenges of links golf.
“It was really disappointing, especially at St. Andrews last year, not to be able to defend,” McIlroy said last week.
“The last time I played The Open I won it, so good memories, and hopefully I can play similar to the way I did in Liverpool and give myself a chance.”
While Tiger Woods seems to have become yesterday’s man and will not feature, McIlroy comes to Troon as part of what could now be termed golf’s ‘big four’.
Alongside him at the summit of the sport are Australia’s Jason Day and American duo Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, the latter the winner of his first major at the US Open at Oakmont last month.
Between them, that quartet has won six of the last eight majors, but the challenges posed by Royal Troon, where cool and damp conditions are forecast, could well leave the field wide open.
American Zach Johnson emerged to win his second major in a play-off at St Andrews a year ago, when the wind and rain forced the finish to be held over until the Monday.