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A Bluffer’s Guide to … The Open Championship

The golf season’s third Major got underway in Kent this morning. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Open Championship.

Image: Jon Super/AP/Press Association Images

What is The Open?

The British Open, or The Open as it is commonly referred to on these shores, is a four-day golf tournament which takes place annually in July.

It is one of the sport’s four “Major” tournaments – the others being the Masters, the US Open, and the USPGA – and it is the only one to be held outside of the United States.

Where is it on?

This year’s tournament is being played at Royal St. George’s golf course in Sandwich, Kent. The Open isn’t played on the same course every year; instead, it is rotated between a limited number of courses in England and Scotland (although it was held at Royal Portrush in County Antrim in 1951).

2011 marks the 14th time that the tournament has been held at Royal St. George’s. American outsider Ben Curtis won at odds of 300/1 the last time the tournament was played there in 2003.

When does it start and how does it work?

Competitive play began early this morning, though the majority of the 156 players have been at Sandwich practicing for the past few days. Jerry Kelly, Nathan Green and Danny Willett opened proceedings when they teed off at 6.30am, with the remainder of the field teeing off at 11-minute intervals thereafter.

The contenders will all play two rounds of 18 holes each, after which the field will be “cut” tomorrow afternoon. Unless a player is in the top 70 positions, they are eliminated and do not get to play in the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

For the final two rounds, the players are paired off in new two-man groupings depending on their position in the field. The individual with the lowest score after the four rounds (or after a four-hole playoff if there is a tie) is declared the winner.

What does the winner get?

The total prize fund for this year’s Open is a cool £5m, of which the winner will receive a £900,000 chunk.

The Open champion will also be presented with one of the most iconic trophies in all of sport, the famous Claret Jug which has been awarded to every winner of the tournament since 1873, as well as the Open Gold Medal.

A number of other presentations are also made at the end of the competition, including the Silver Medal for the best amateur performance over the four days.

Who are the main contenders?

For the first time in a long, long time, all of the top names in the betting are Europeans.

US Open Champion, wonderkid, and all-round nice guy Rory McIlroy (8/1) heads the field at the moment, which is rather unsurprising considering the manner in which he destroyed the opposition at Congressional. Behind him in the betting are the current world number one and two, Luke Donald (12/1) and Lee Westwood (11/1), both of whom are overdue a maiden Major victory.

Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell round out the top six in the betting, while Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker and Nick Watney are thought to be the top American chances on current form.

Do any of the Irish players have a chance?

Yes, they all do really. Alongside McIlroy and McDowell, Padraig Harrington is a two-time winner of this tournament, though neither of his successes came at Royal St. George’s. Darren Clarke is the only other Irish contender in the field and, while he isn’t expected to set the world alight, stranger things have happened.

Is Tiger playing?

Nope. The 14-time Major winner announced last week that a knee injury would prevent him from adding to his three Open titles this time around.

On the plus side, there’ll probably be a dramatic reduction in the number of comic geniuses shouting “get in the hole” every time he takes a swing.

How can I follow the action?

On this side of the pond, BBC and Setanta have snaffled up the rights to the televised coverage.  Broadcasts begin on both stations at 9am today and tomorrow, 10am on Saturday and 11am on Sunday.

Alternatively, if you can’t get yourself close to a tellybox, we’ll be running a liveblog here on the site for the duration of the tournament. As soon as anything of note happens, we’ll let you know.

In numbers: The Open Championship >

The Open: your hole-by-hole guide to Royal St George’s >

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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