Highlights: Top shots from Round 1 of the 2021 Open Championship | Golf Channel


Golf Channel 15 July, 2021 - 02:49pm 4 views

Who are the favorites to win the British Open?

Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele are among the favorites to win at the British Open. The Athletic2021 British Open odds: Jon Rahm favored to win ahead of Brooks Koepka

When is the British Open on TV?

British Open TV coverage today Broadcast times: 4 a.m to 3 p.m. Sporting NewsBritish Open schedule 2021: Day-by-day TV coverage to watch on NBC, Golf Channel & stream online

Who is the favorite to win the Open?

Rahm is the favorite at 7-1 at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. No other golfer has single-digit odds. Bryson DeChambeau is next at 14-1, followed by Dustin Johnson at 15-1. Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka are each 16-1. ESPNJon Rahm clear-cut betting favorite at 7-1 to win The Open

Who wins the British Open?

The 2020 British Open was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the reigning champion remains Shane Lowry of Ireland. In the 2019 season, Lowry won over Tommy Fleetwood by a six-stroke margin over Tommy Fleetwood. DraftKings NationBritish Open 2021: Past winners, who has won it the most times, why no 2020 winner

Read full article at Golf Channel

Open Championship 2021 roundtable: Picks, odds and best bets

Yahoo Sports 16 July, 2021 - 12:01pm

Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde, Pete Thamel

BUSBEE: The Open Championship. The British Open. Whatever you call it, we’re back. To begin, sir, your thoughts on the one non-American major?

PIANOWSKI: There was a time when The Open was my favorite major. Let's never forget that golf originated in the UK, not America. Europe has always produced a bunch of swashbuckling star players, and I fell in love with the romance of it all.

The Open isn't my favorite major any more, though. The beauty and history of the Masters is undeniable, and I love when the U.S. Open really shows its teeth. The Ryder Cup always gets my juices flowing, too. Now I see The Open more as a welcome throwback, a knuckleball, a trip off the beaten path. And I guess we can also call it Glory's Last Shot (I'm still getting used to the relatively-new schedule).

BUSBEE: The mornings spent half-asleep on the couch watching this tournament are among the best sports mornings of the year (granted, there’s not much competition for that title). You bring up a sad but crucial point: this is our final major for the next nine months, thanks to the PGA Championship’s realignment a few years back. Man, it’s going to be a tough major-free stretch of golf until Augusta 2022.

Anyway, to the point. This is a very different visual experience for most American audiences, and not just because of the gale-force wind and rain. Links golf isn’t a common sight here, and Royal St. George’s single tree won’t put anyone in mind of Augusta. How do you think the course will go over with fans?

PIANOWSKI: For American golf fans, links golf is probably an acquired taste. I just got back from a delightful week of golf in upstate Michigan, and one of the days we played a true links course. Half of the crew liked it, half of the crew was nonplussed. It's not unusual to see well-struck shots wind up penalized, and the play around the green requires imagination, skill, and more than a little luck. (We did catch a break with the weather; it didn't rain, and on the day we played the links course, it wasn't windy. I pray we don't have benign conditions this week, because that can turn The Open into a snoozefest in a hurry.)

Let me be clear, I like a links setup. I like seeing more of the field having a legitimate chance. If this means we have another winner like Ben Curtis (out of nowhere) or Darren Clarke (into his 40s), I'm cool with it. They're obviously the last two winners when The Open came to Royal St. George's.

What type of player wins here? Give me someone with patience, with equanimity, with creativity around the greens. And I don't think this is a great spot for a due-for-a-major winner to emerge.

BUSBEE: So no Xander Schauffele? Duly noted. What kind of player do you think wins this week?

PIANOWSKI: My picks will focus on made men, players who already have their legacy in a safe place, or longshots who can play loose, knowing it's unlikely they're going to win so why stress over anything? Said a different way, as much as I'm all for the inevitable major coronation of Xander, I won't punch a ticket on him this week. (It kills me to say that.)

Can someone go Tom Watson on this tournament? (No, Stewart Cink, I haven't forgiven you for 2009; not sure I ever will). Some older players are in good form. Lee Westwood is in wonderful place with his game and with his life; having his wife on the bag agrees with him. Padraig Harrington finished fourth at the PGA and T18 at the Scottish Open last week. Westwood is 50-1 at Bet MGM and Harrington is 150-1. Why the heck not? They're in my penny stock file. (Is Ian Poulter old enough for this category? The Rod Stewart lookalike is in good form and we've seen him ride a hot putter before.)

BUSBEE: Lightning round. I’ll give you four names, you’ll give me your assessment. Ready? Jon Rahm.

PIANOWSKI: Rahm is the best golfer in the world right now, but you can't chase him at 8-1, at least I won't. It's worth noting that The Open has been his worst major by far, through his short career. That said, he did make a run last week at the Scottish Open, settling for sole 7th.

PIANOWSKI: This doesn't look like Bryson DeChambeau week. Still settling into a new caddy relationship, and this is not a course you can bludgeon to death. Can he handle having a handful of good shots squirt into pesky areas? He's merely the ninth favorite on the Bet MGM page and I support that. I won't be surprised if he flies home Friday.

PIANOWSKI: Spieth is the name player I'm most likely to get behind. He's already bagged three majors, including an Open Championship win four years back. When it comes to playing around the green, he's probably the best player in the world. He's rediscovered his long-game confidence this year. And he's got the makeup to handle the inevitable stops and starts you get at this event.

PIANOWSKI: Something is missing with McIlroy. He didn't even make the cut at the Scottish Open, and his major resume this year includes a disappointing U.S. Open Sunday and no-shows at the two other events. He didn't make a run the last time The Open came here. I look forward to McIlroy having a comeback season soon, similar to what Spieth is doing now. But I can't call for it on spec.

BUSBEE: And now, the wagering. Each major, we gamble $100 (metaphorically, of course) and see where the chips land. Picking Jon Rahm last time around turned my entire year around, and I’m now sitting at $360.25 ($60.25 net), while you, my friend, are at $105 (-$195 net). But there’s always hope! Where are you placing your (virtual) money?

PIANOWKSKI: Maybe I’m too heavy on outrights, but you have to start there. Patrick Reed is a wonderful putter and can shut out the noise that inevitably follows him around. Put $10 on Reed at +2800.

As I alluded to earlier, Spieth is the big ticket I can’t leave off my sheet. Calmness matters. Equanimity matters. No one is more imaginative facing a difficult up-and-down. Ten bucks at +1800.

I’m going to give some love to the older chaps, as outlined above. Five bucks on Westwood (+5000), Poulter (+6600), Harrington (+15000).

Is there an American underdog in the house? Let’s go five on Kevin Streelman (+15000), Lucas Glover (+20000), and screw it, I can root for Cink for four days (+15000).

I know being due isn’t really a thing, but don’t the golfing gods owe something to Louie Oosthuizen? He’s been so damn close all year. If he were 20-1 or lower I’d Iook away, but at +2800, go ahead, take my money. Ten bucks.

I have $40 left. As tempting as it is to bet on some missed cuts (looking at you, protractor boy), let me try to hit for a single and put it all on Spieth to finish Top 20, even odds. And just like that, my wallet is empty.

BUSBEE: I’ll go $10 on Rahm (+800), $10 on Koepka (+1600) and $10 in goodwill on Westwood (+5000). I too like Spieth, so I’m throwing $10 behind a top-5 finish from Jordan (+400).

I’m going to spread a little top-20 money around to a few deserving lads: $5 apiece on Louis Oosthuizen (+120), Tyrrell Hatton (+150), Scottie Scheffler (+160) and Tommy Fleetwood (+200).

I like Rickie Fowler to step up here, so I’m putting $10 on him to be in the top 5 after the first round (+1200). And just to throw a Hail Mary, $10 on Koepka/Rahm to finish first/second in any order (+6600).

Because I have zero faith in DeChambeau right now, I’ll throw down $10 on him to miss the cut (+260) and offset that karmically with a fiver on Darren Clarke to make the cut (+300).

And finally, because I feel so bad for England, $5 for the Claret Jug to come home in the hands of an English player (+850). Either it’s coming home or my money is.

Good luck, my friend, and enjoy the tournament, everyone!

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

A wide array of golf betting and DFS tools have recently launched for EDGE+ Max subscribers, which can help you handicap The Open Championship. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

We look at the top 18- and 72-hole matchups for the 2021 British Open, with PGA Tour picks and predictions.

We searched for value in the British Open odds and offer up the best prop bet for each of the favorites this week.

Rory has historically played well the week after missing the cut.

Forget about Brooks Koepka dousing the fire of his strange, compellingly childish feud with Bryson DeChambeau. Instead, ahead of a potentially memorable duel at this week’s Open, the four-time major champion has thrown on some extra kerosene, claiming he regards his nemesis as “fair game”. The quiet seaside community of Sandwich is not, it seems, a town big enough for the both of them. For if he achieves nothing else at Royal St George’s, Koepka is ready to dial up his hostilities with his fello

A decade ago, Rory McIlroy ventured out with Darren Clarke here on the Wednesday practice round and helped inspire his older countryman to win The Open. This year, the duo will once again take to Royal St George’s for an eve of championship final warm-up, but this time it could be Clarke acting as the motivator. In 2011, McIlroy and Clarke linked up to play a “friendly” fourball better-ball against the South African duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. The younger trio had all lifted ma

The 149th British Open stars on Thursday, a year later than planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, at the Royal St George's course in Sandwich, Kent.

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Dustin Johnson has some ominous history at Royal St. George's, but the place is still among his favorite British Open venues.

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If you tell the average sports nerd that literature’s greatest golf match took place at Royal St George’s – the venue for this week’s Open Championship – he’ll shake his head in a superior manner and say “No mate, it was at Stoke Park.” That’s because our expert is thinking about the movie version of Goldfinger, during which the dastardly henchman Oddjob decapitates a statue with a whirl of his bowler hat. But the source material is actually set in Kent, on an unmistakeable links course that aut

Tom Brady seemed to hit a nerve.

We look for the best value prop bets in the 2021 British Open odds, with placings, groups and first-round leader picks and predictions.

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2021 British Open leaderboard breakdown: Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth top other major winners after Round 1

CBSSports.com 16 July, 2021 - 12:01pm

The first round of the 149th Open Championship saw the morning wave go low and set the pace, and after 18 holes, the field has produced a pair of former winners at the top of the leaderboard. Louis Oosthuizen has finished as a runner-up six times in majors since he won at St. Andrews in 2010, but he's alone on top after shooting a 6-under 64.

Jordan Spieth is one off the lead at 5 under in what was one of the most exciting developments on Thursday. We're three Opens and four years since Spieth's epic win Royal Birkdale, and it's possible that the success of the last four months -- eight top-10 finishes in 14 starts, a win at the Valero Texas Open and a T3 at the Masters -- has been building to another major win for the former No. 1 player in the world. 

Brian Harman is tied with Spieth, followed by a five-player group at 4 under highlighted by Webb Simpson, who was one of the few players to really go low in the afternoon wave with his five-birdie, one-bogey round of 66. Simpson will be one of the few players at the top of the leaderboard in the morning wave on Friday, setting him up to catch Oosthuizen or push the lead even deeper into red numbers. 

In total, 47 golfers finished under par and 18 of those are within three strokes of the lead, leaving plenty left to be decided on Friday in terms of who enters the weekend in a position to win. There may be two former Open winners at the top of the leaderboard, but there's 11 major winners in the top 20 right now and plenty more names who could end up being named Champion Golfer of the Year at the end of Sunday's final round. 

Check out a breakdown of the leaderboard below and catch up on highlights from the first round in the updates section. 

1. Louis Oosthuizen (-6): The round got started steady with seven straight pars before Oosthuizen hit a couple hot streaks coming in, starting with three straight birdies making the turn then three birdies in four holes between No. 13 and No. 16 for a bogey-free 64. In terms of storylines, he's among the most interesting potential winners; however, before we even talk about finishing as a runner-up for a third straight major -- let alone winning one, he must maintain his position on the leaderboard. 

T2. Jordan Spieth, Brian Harman (-5): Spieth plotted his way around Royal St. George's with confidence, bouncing back an early bogey with a statement response of four straight birdies on the front nine. It's exactly what you want to see from a former champion who seems to have his game moving in the right direction. Harman did the reverse Louis, carding four birdies in his first five holes before leveling out a little over the course of the round. It's still a great start for a player who has missed the cut in his last four Open Championship starts. 

T4. Webb Simpson, Stewart Cink, Mackenzie Hughes, Dylan Frittelli, Benjamin Herbert (-4): The year of Cink continues! Cink has already won twice this year, and now he's starting his 22nd appearance at The Open -- where you may remember he was a winner over Tom Watson in 2009 at Turnberry -- with a 66 that puts him two strokes off the lead. Everyone from this group except for Simpson played early on Thursday, so they'll have to wait until Friday afternoon to begin defending their spots at the top. 

T9. Justin Rose, Collin Morikawa, Tommy Fleetwood, Scottie Scheffler, Danny Willett and five others (-3): A runner-up to reigning champion Shane Lowry in 2019, Fleetwood stands to gain a ton from a strong showing here at Royal St. George's. His finishes have been backsliding a little in 2021, and suddenly, a player who ranked as high as No. 10 in the world prior to the shutdown enters this weekend at No. 35. 

T19. Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari and 10 others (-2): There were a couple experts here at CBS Sports who wrote earlier this week that D.J. was the star that definitely wouldn't win. I was one of those dummies, and even though winning requires more work as he sits four strokes back after 18 holes, there was enough solid play from Johnson to change my expectations for this tournament. D.J. sputtered two holes and carded back-to-back bogeys on No. 8 and No. 9, but he also had four birdies and plus-value ball striking on approach shots. Still a lot of work to win, but worth keeping an eye on considering the form he brought into this week. 

T33. Brooks Koepka (-1): It wasn't a great day on the greens for Koepka, but he managed to roll in a couple birdies and finish under par. If you're looking for someone who could possibly charge back from five strokes down after 18 holes it's probably Brooks, so this is where I draw the line for real contention to win. Other notables in this spot: Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler. 

T49. Rory McIlroy (E): A disappointing round from the start, McIlroy was fighting his way all through the afternoon, salvaging this round with two birdies and no bogeys on the final six holes. 

T73. Bryson DeChambeau (+1): The comments about his driver after the round will overshadow that DeChambeau still found enough moments to take advantage of the course to finish close to even par. His driving accuracy was indeed bad, but he also had four birdies on the round. 

T73. Jon Rahm (+1): The betting favorite to win coming into the week had fans tearing up their tickets after a first-round 71. Rahm was looking to make some history after winning the U.S. Open, but running it back-to-back seems much less likely after the first round. 

Check out a more detailed leaderboard and our complete viewer's guide for how to watch the final three days of the 149th Open Championship.

Vote for your Doosan Shot of the Day from https://t.co/6mH0pNJX5D #TheOpen #Doosan #DoosanShotOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/JgsHwAf2gr

2021 British Open - Round 1 Recap + Round 2 Preview | Golf Podcast https://t.co/5lIgNIvyPo

😍 pic.twitter.com/0q1YJJSttr

Rory wrestles himself back to par with a great birdie at the last 👀 He'll be looking forward to tomorrow #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/Lue75gjVZO

A birdie at the last means a 67 for @TommyFleetwood1 🐦 He's three off the lead and in a great position going into Round 2 #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/haIb0Y3NSL

Two to play for Cameron Smith 🇦🇺 He'll be looking to finish well. Follow his progress 👉 https://t.co/xYY44zAFs3#TheOpen pic.twitter.com/CijhgvjMdC

This will be the worst position following any round of Phil Mickelson's major championship career.

This simply makes the PGA win that much crazier.

Two months after winning the PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson has opened with a birdie-free 80 (+10) and is currently in last place.

The 18th fairway at Royal St George's 🏔 #heinrichgolf #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/yRllWi8gzn

Phil Mickelson is staring at an 80 and currently last in this field. Golf.

Lowest round so far of the afternoon starters 👏 #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/r5mseU0O3m

Thank you to all the volunteers and staff that are working this week at Royal St George's ⛳️#TheOpen would not be the same without you 👏 pic.twitter.com/xK1dzeJnsn

Webb Simpson is -4 and two back of Oosthuizen. Did not see this coming! His best-ever finish was a T12 at Carnoustie in 2018.

Webb Simpson joins the group at -4 with a birdie on No. 16. This is a championship that I think Simpson has the game to win, and no matter how the rest of the weekend goes it's going to be nice to have some good golf to build on moving forward. Simpson played well at the beginning of the year but injuries and missed cuts have kept him out of contention to win tournaments since April.

Only 3 bogey-free rounds all week at Royal St Georges in 2011. I've counted 6 so far already today. #TheOpen

Frozen rope.#TheOpen pic.twitter.com/yT9YB8eVwa

Our @Golfweek_Dusek got a Cobra rep on the line after Bryson said his driver sucks. Hoo buddy!https://t.co/sD4YWA9wdp pic.twitter.com/CSBvrBf1w1

Hiding from bogeys #TheOpen @JustinRose99 did not drop a shot in a three-under 67 at Royal St George's ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/Q4G3W2z1jB

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Danny Willett shrugged his shoulders, grabbed his tee, and returned to his caddie beside the fourth tee at Royal St. George’s.

He’d just hit what he thought was the ideal drive during his final practice round at the British Open on Wednesday, only for one of the bumps on the course’s lunar-like landscape to throw it offline and into the rough.

“Kicked left,” Willett said, before smiling. “Never asked for it!”

Expect the unexpected will be the motto for the world’s best golfers starting Thursday U.K. time as they get a crack at links golf for the first time in two years in this picturesque corner of southeast England.

The course at Royal St. George’s is disrespected by some and unloved by many more for being unfair. Balls can be propelled almost sideways by the undulations on the fairways, some of which can be unhittable especially in dry and fast conditions.

The fairways on the first and 17th holes promise to be particularly tough, not to mention the one on the fourth, as Willett can attest.

“It’s not my favorite of the [Open] rotation,” Brooks Koepka said of a course once described to American golfer Charles Howell III as “the world’s largest pinball machine.”

A New York federal judge on Wednesday nullified the suspension of horse trainer Bob Baffert, finding that the New York Racing Association acted unconstitutionally by failing to let him adequately respond to claims made against him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test.

In her written ruling, Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon said a prompt post-suspension hearing where Baffert could refute the claims was required to meet constitutional muster.

But she said the racing association “had held no hearing — let alone a prompt one.”

Attorney W. Craig Robertson III, who represented Baffert at a Monday hearing before Amon, said the ruling confirms that “following the Kentucky Derby, there was an improper rush to judgment and Mr. Baffert has been treated unfairly.”

A lawyer for the racing association did not return a message seeking comment.

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will put their medals around their own necks to protect against spreading the coronavirus.

The “very significant change” to traditional medal ceremonies in the 339 events was revealed Wednesday by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“The medals will not be given around the neck,” Bach told international media on a conference call from Tokyo. “They will be presented to the athlete on a tray and then the athlete will take the medal him- or herself.

The Olympic approach is different to soccer in Europe where UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has personally hung medals around the necks of players at competition finals in recent weeks.

Olympic medals are typically presented by an IOC member or a leading official in a sport’s governing body.

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Did a butterfly cause Rory McIlroy to drop a shot at the Open Championship?

Golf.com 15 July, 2021 - 12:33pm

Rory McIlroy hits out of a bunker on Thursday on the 6th hole at Royal St. George's.

Rory McIlroy, on the par-3 6th at Royal St. George’s, hit his tee shot and immediately started to smile. Was it the shot? Hardly. It sailed right during Thursday’s first round of the Open Championship and dropped into the center of a greenside bunker.

Was it the marshal behind him? Nope. The man in the green hat and green jacket had patiently held his lime green marker low, only raising it until McIlroy’s shot was in flight. 

Nor was it a fan. But it was in attendance. 

“Butterfly,” McIlroy said to caddie Harry Diamond as he walked off the tee.

Harrowing video here: Rory McIlroy narrowly escapes serious injury from a butterfly that charged straight at him on the tee. Terrifying. pic.twitter.com/Woo5wALZyt

“Rory McIlroy was bothered by something,” analyst Justin Leonard said on the Golf Channel broadcast. 

“Thought maybe it was the marshal raising that early, but it wasn’t,” announcer Terry Gannon said. “Shadows, but he waited.”

After his follow-through, McIlroy whipped around and pointed, and as he walked over to Diamond, he pointed again as the butterfly zipped past. From the bunker, McIlroy would blast out to about 5 feet, then miss the par putt, leading to the second of three-straight bogeys. In search of his first major championship since the 2014 PGA Championship, he shot a over-over 36 on his front nine. 

“Yeah, it’s hard to get mad at a butterfly,” Leonard said on the broadcast. 

“Yeah, it really is,” Gannon said. “A marshal on the other hand. They’re just trying to help you out.”

GOLF.com and GOLF Magazine are published by EB GOLF MEDIA LLC, a division of 8AM GOLF

The 149th Open| Open Championship is under way | Bland hits first tee shot

The Open 15 July, 2021 - 05:45am

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Beware the quirky slopes at Open’s least popular host

The Times 14 July, 2021 - 06:01pm

Jack Nicklaus was once asked if he really came up with that much-quoted line about Open courses getting worse the farther south you travel. “I would never have said that,” answered Nicklaus in a tone of mock indignation. And then, after a short pause, he said: “Probably did.”

So welcome to Royal St George’s, a venue damned by faint praise, the nobby no-mates of Open golf. Even Darren Clarke, the last man to lift the Claret Jug here, struggled to say anything nice about the place. Clarke, the 2011 winner, acknowledged that he will always have fond memories of this corner of Kent, but he sounded happy to keep those memories at arm’s length.

“Would I prefer to play Royal Portrush every day or Royal

Darren Clarke says Rory McIlroy WILL win many more majors

Daily Mail 14 July, 2021 - 04:30pm

By Mike Dickson for the Daily Mail

Two Northern Irishmen were out together at 7am on Wednesday, re-enacting a practice round that 10 years ago proved to be a launch pad for one of them.

The conversation flowed and so did the wisecracks as Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy followed the same routine which, a decade earlier, preceded the former winning The Open at Sandwich.

Clarke will not be winning the title this year, but his younger partner might hope some kind of history repeats itself as he seeks to end his relative drought at the majors.

Darren Clarke has backed Rory McIlroy to add 'many more' majors to his current collection

The older champion, now 52, was inevitably quizzed about when McIlroy, 32, might win again, although it was the third man in their group who really knows his stuff about ending lean runs.

That was Richard Bland, the quiet Englishman who in May won his maiden title on the European Tour at the British Masters — on his 478th start.

Yet, when it comes to winning the biggest events, Clarke is the more qualified to speak. Unsurprisingly, he has faith in his fellow Ulsterman.

‘It’s been a while since he’s won one (US PGA, 2014), but Rory’s unquestionably got the talent to win many more of them,’ said the last champion at Royal St George’s.

The Northern Irishman is in a rut having failed to win a major title since the US PGA in 2014

A tweak to his swing has seen McIlroy's form drop heading into The Open at Sandwich

‘It’s just a case of things kicking into place for him. I know he’s working diligently and doing a lot of work with Pete (Cowen, his coach) to try to hit the ball the way he wants to. This week there’s going to be a premium on keeping it on the fairways. That long stuff is really long and thick this week. We’ll see.

‘He’s working really hard. He hit some great shots today, hit a couple of ones maybe he didn’t want to hit but there’s no questioning his talent. I have been frustrated most of my career. If I was him, with his amount of talent, hell yeah I’d be frustrated with not winning tournaments.’

Clarke cuts a different figure these days to the one who triumphed in the rain 10 years ago.

He has a white beard which looks almost luminous in contrast to his deeply tanned skin, the legacy of years spent based in the Bahamas.

However, McIlroy appeared in good mood with his fellow countryman on Wednesday

Now playing on the US Seniors Tour, this is his first visit to the UK since November 2019, so there were friends to catch up with. Giving a further historic hue to Wednesday's round, fellow ex-Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn came bounding over to greet the pair on the 15th fairway and joined them to watch and chat on the 16th. It was exactly here in 2003 that the Dane blew his lead — his best chance of winning The Open — by taking three to get out of the bunker.

Clarke and Bjorn, 50, with their substantial frames, gave each other a big hug, like two very well-nourished bears. Reflecting on his win of 10 years ago, Clarke talked of the role that renowned golf sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella played. It happens that McIlroy is working with the same guru in 2021.

‘I spent a bit of time with Dr Bob on the putting green on the Wednesday prior to the 2011 tournament and he cleared my head because if things aren’t quite going well I tend to go back into technique and that’s not always the solution to scoring. I found a little bit of rhythm and a bit of feel with my putting stroke and all of a sudden it became a much easier game again.

‘My whole attitude that week changed when I thought I could hole a couple of putts. I was very relaxed. I didn’t look at the leaderboard on the Sunday until I walked off the 16th green, which was a nice thing to look at when you’ve got a four-shot lead.

Clarke, who won The Open in 2011, says that things will kick into place for his Ulster pal

‘My whole mindset was very accepting because on this golf course you can hit really good shots but because of the undulation here — maybe a little bit more if it’s firm and fast — you can get some funky bounces.

‘I would be a little bit ahead of myself if I was to try to give Rory advice. Any stuff that I would probably be saying to him would be coming from Bob Rotella as well.’

Clarke was also synonymous with the Ryder Cup, captaining Europe in the defeat by USA at Hazeltine in 2016. Like everyone else, he is fascinated by the antagonism between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

‘If they were to keep this little thing going, that would possibly be very positive for the European team,’ he said. ‘But I’m sure USA captain Steve Stricker will ask them to leave whatever the differences are outside the team room come the Monday when they all get together.

‘And if they want to pick it up again on the Monday when they leave then c’est la vie.’

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