World’s best descend on Royal Troon for Open battle

The top golfers in the world have descended on Scotland for the 2016 Open Championship starting tonight.

The Open is the third major on the calendar and the ninth to be held on the Old Course of Royal Troon Golf Course.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy will be looking to make up for lost time after missing his title defence in 2015 (Credit: Matt Harris)

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and of course world No.1 Jason Day are joint favourites to claim the title.

Day is paired with Masters champion Danny Willett and Rickie Fowler in the first two rounds. Their group will tee off at 09:25 local time on Thursday, while Spieth plays with Justin Rose and Shane Lowry at 09:03.

Spieth and Day both arrive this week after tying for fourth place in last year’s Open Championship, finishing just a shot short of the play-off. Day had held a share of the third round lead, only to see his chances fade over the closing round.

Day makes no secret that he is keen to get his name on the Open trophy alongside his fellow countrymen Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle.

Two weeks ago, when holding a one-shot lead with four to go at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Day went bogey, double-bogey to hand the title to Dustin Johnson which resulted in questions surrounding Day’s form. This week at Troon he says that is the past and he’s ready to claim his second major.

Johnson has won his last two events, the US Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. His remarkable power should help negate the often windy conditions in Scotland, and his recent fine run of form makes him a player not to discount.

Reigning champion Zach Johnson is grouped with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson at 14:15 while another marquee group on Thursday afternoon includes Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Ernie Els, who tee off at 13:26.

Last year, consistent rains and strong winds at St. Andrews pushed the final round to Monday, when Johnson outlasted Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day to take home his first Open trophy.

It looks like the 2016 Open at Royal Troon will follow a similar pattern. Weather predictions are that Troon is expected to get heavy rain Friday-Sunday, with high winds set to cause havoc throughout the event. That includes 50 km winds forecasted for moving day on Saturday.

A number of the world’s best relish the traditionally difficult conditions at the tournament. Rory McIlroy is one. Twelve months ago the Northern Irishman was missing from the field in St Andrews after suffering an ankle injury while playing football with friends.

McIlroy is bidding to win his fifth major and second Open after his victory at Hoylake, near Liverpool, in 2014.

Yet the Americans appear to be the ones to watch with the last six winners at Troon having all been from the US, including Arnold Palmer in 1962, Tom Watson in 1982 and Todd Hamilton, the most recent champion there in 2004.

Eleven Australians have made the field for this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, including Scott Hend, Matt Jones, Marcus Fraser, Nathan Holman, Nick Cullen and Greg Chalmers.