Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Sports | By Jonathan Ford

McIlroy relaxed over length of Major drought

Coverage: Live across BBC Radio, highlights on BBC TV and online, live text commentaries on BBC website. "I love playing here, this type of links golf, or a style of links golf down on the Aussie sand belt. because it is creative".

All four of golf's biggest prizes are held by USA players, with Jordan Spieth the returning champion for the 147th Open, which starts at 06:35 BST on Thursday. "And I found a way to get it done four times, and hopefully I find a way to get it done a few more times before I'm finished". I was bouncing down the fairways and I didn't care if I shot 82 or 62.

"I've put myself up there in contention a couple of times".

Carnoustie - or "Carnasty" as it's been affectionately dubbed - has hosted two of the four highest scoring Open Championships since World War Two, with Gary Player winning with a score of 289 in 1968 and Paul Lowrie claiming the Claret Jug with a cumulative score of 290 in 1999. Noren has a win and two other top-five finishes on the European Tour this season, and also has three top-five finishes on the PGA Tour.

The Open will be Woods' 12th tournament of the year in his comeback from a spinal fusion 15 months ago, and his return has been a work in progress, sometimes two steps forward and one step back. "It makes it tough". For the week, Woods hit just a single driver, choosing to play irons off the tees for positioning and wearing out the field with some incredible iron play to the greens.

Speaking to media on the eve of the tournament, McIlroy said: "I have had a decent career up to this point and I have a lot of time to add to the major tally". Had he hit a driver, he would have risked the ball rolling into the water (known as the Barry Burn) that fronts the green. "You're still going to get some run but it's a little easier to control".

Tiger Woods, however, said that controlling a driver that can potentially roll for 80 yards or more can make that strategy risky.

That said, distance is everything at Carnoustie this year, which Woods discovered when he arrived Sunday. "I think I got to the second round of the matchplay, but it was a lot different conditions to what we're experiencing. This week provides an opportunity to use your imagination, hold the ball, ride the wind". The traditional calculus is that the longer you try to hit it, the more likely you hit it offline.

Fleetwood holds the course record at Carnoustie, going round in 63 a year ago at the Alfred Dunhill links championship.

"The rough is not very penal so if I can carry all the bunkers, I'm going to hit driver".

McIlroy warned against going in with one set game plan for the week, though. He knows links golf, knows Carnoustie and knows what he's capable of. "It's going to be really interesting to see how it all plays out".

Carnoustie has a nice tribute to the late Peter Thomson behind the 18th green after the five-time Open champion passed recently in Melbourne. This Open, like your local vehicle dealership before you know it, offers two options: With a driver, or without. There will be players who take Woods' approach, and those who take Johnson's.

Fleetwood, 27, missed an eight-foot birdie putt on his 72nd hole at Shinnecock Hills in June, eventually losing by one shot.

"One shot is a quarter of a shot a round so it's not that much", he said. "It's going to help me on these greens, for sure, because normally when I've come over here and virtually nearly every single Open I've played in, I would put lead tape on my putters to try and get it a little bit heavier and get the ball rolling".

Amateur Sam Locke, who works part-time in 1999 champion Lawrie's Aberdeenshire golf centre, is playing his first Open. Lawrie, who used to be coached by Locke's father, is missing because of foot and back injuries.

Tiger Woods says the British Open represents his best chance of winning another major championship, and with some "cleaner golf" this might be the week he breaks his decade-plus major drought.

They discuss a ton of golfers including #1-ranked Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka and how their games line up for the course.

"I'm not going to hit many long clubs off the tees", he said. There's many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage.

Thursday's early starters are likely to have the better of the conditions, with sunshine and light winds forecast.

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