The best players in the world have gathered in the Home of Golf this week to do battle for the 144th Open Championship over the historic Old Course in St Andrews.

Lowdown:
The best players in the world have gathered in the Home of Golf this week to do battle for the 144th Open Championship over the historic Old Course in St Andrews.

Although defending champion Rory McIlroy will be absent because of injury, an extremely strong field has assembled, including all of the players in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking (save for the Northern Irishman.)

World Number two Jordan Spieth is in confident mood coming into the week on the back of yet another victory – this time in the John Deere Classic in Illinois. If the 21-year-old wins a third straight Major championship here in St Andrews he will, not only be three quarters of the way to an historic “Grand Slam,” but he will also overtake McIlroy as the World’s Number 1 golfer.

Looking to deny Spieth will be a host of form players, including his countrymen Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, as well as last week’s Scottish Open winner Rickie Fowler.

The Old Course looks to be in pristine condition and the players have been full of praise for the quality of the surfaces following their practice rounds. After the rigours of Chambers Bay, the field will be delighted to do battle for a Major championship on greens that run pure and true.

A decent amount of rainfall leading up to this event means golf’s “Grand Old Lady” is looking greener than for some past championships. The putting surfaces look likely to be a touch more receptive than usual and, if the wind doesn’t blow too aggressively, we might see more shots played through the air than run along the links turf.

However, the weather forecast for the week looks relatively unsettled and squally showers could be a feature. As with any links course, the wind might be a significant factor at St Andrews. Last time The Open was here in 2010 conditions favoured one side of the draw considerably and there’s every chance that good fortune in terms of tee times could play a part again this time out.

Venue: St Andrews Old Course, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Date: Jul 16 – 19
Course stats: par 72, 7,305 yards
Purse: £6,300,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-17)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 16 – From 9am on BBC1
Friday 17 – From 9am on BBC1
Saturday 18 – From 10am on BBC1
Sunday 19 – From 11am on BBC1

A video looking at some of the favourites for this year’s Open:

Key hole: 17th. Arguably, the most famous hole in world golf, if the competition is tight as the leaders reach the Road Hole for the final time, this is where it could be won and lost. With the hotel and out of bounds forcing players left from the tee, the approach shot is extremely difficult to a narrow green protected by the infamous Road Hole bunker. Beyond the green is the road and boundary wall, both making an up-and-down extremely difficult.

Skills required: Strategy and long putting. The key this week will be to find the right areas off the tees and to avoid the punishing fairway bunkers. Owing to the sprawling putting surfaces, players will face a high percentage of long first putts this week so getting the speed right early will be of crucial importance.