The Open

The Open: Golf's oldest major is back and raring to go

The 149th Open Championship begins at Royal St George's on Thursday as the Claret Jug goes up for grabs following last year's cancellation.

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The Open: Golf's oldest major is back and raring to go

Golf's oldest major is back and raring to go after a coronavirus-enforced cancellation in 2020 and it promises to be a thrilling tournament at Royal St George's.

Reigning champion Shane Lowry will finally put the Claret Jug on the line two years after winning it at Royal Portrush.

The Irishman was a popular victor in County Antrim but faces a battle against a tough field and the history books if he is to retain his cherished prize.

The 149th Open will be hosted at this Kent links course for the 15th time and first since 2011, with its unpredictable fairways and nightmarish rough ready to challenge even the most skilled of competitors.

FORM GUIDE

Jon Rahm is the clear favourite to claim what would be a remarkable double after triumphing at the US Open, with only six players having previously achieved that feat in the same year.

The form guide reads well for 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who has eight top-10 finishes in 2021, while Rory McIlroy will have to bounce back from missing the cut at the Scottish Open last time out.

Despite a poor showing in this year's majors, having missed the cut at the Masters and US PGA Championship, world number one Dustin Johnson can never be discounted.

LAST FIVE WINNERS

2019: Shane Lowry (Royal Portrush)
2018: Francesco Molinari (Carnoustie)
2017: Jordan Spieth (Royal Birkdale)
2016: Henrik Stenson (Royal Troon)
2015: Zach Johnson (St Andrews)

KEY FACTS

- Shane Lowry is seeking to become the first player to successfully defend the Claret Jug at this course since Harry Vardon in 1899.

- Branden Grace has been drawn alongside the eventual winner in the opening two rounds of each of the previous two Opens. This year, he is in a trio with Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau.

- The six players to have won the US Open and Open Championship in the same year are: Bobby Jones (1926 & 1930), Gene Sarazen (1932), Ben Hogan (1953), Lee Trevino (1971), Tom Watson (1982) and Tiger Woods (2000).

WHAT THEY SAID

Jon Rahm: "I'm excited. Especially on a course with such history as this one. It's known to be a difficult links golf course, so I'm hoping it plays like that, and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Rory McIlroy: "I think the biggest thing this week is if you do hit it off line, you've got some really thick, juicy rough on either side of the fairway, which you just have to avoid."

Shane Lowry: "I'm really looking forward to the week ahead. Not that I'm ready to give the Claret Jug back."

SELECTED FIRST-ROUND TEE TIMES (all times local)

08:03 - Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Garrick Higgo
09:25 - Jordan Spieth, Brandon Grace, Bryson DeChambeau
09:58 - Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen
10:20 - Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Will Zalatoris
15:21 - Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith