History tends to repeat itself.
That is exactly what happened at Royal Birkdale last year as Padraig Harrington defended his championship victory from the previous year at Carnoustie.
Well not exactly. How it happened was vastly different.
Last year he held off Ian Poulter and Greg Norman (1986 Turnberry, 1993 Royal St. George's) with that brilliant 5-wood that enabled him to eagle No. 17 on Sunday. He won by four strokes over Poulter and five over Norman who tied for third with Henrik Stenson. Even though it was much closer than the final results indicate the Irishman was able to walk up the 18th knowing he had done it again.
The year before was much different with Andres Romero making a heroic 10-birdie effort to win the world's biggest championship. However the 2008 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year faltered down the stretch.
As with Jean Van de Velde in 1999 walking down the 18th fairway it was Sergio Garcia's Major to win. The Spaniard's one-stroke lead was erased as he bogeyed the home hole to fall into a tie with Harrington. Padraig beat him in the cumulative four-hole playoff to win his first Major.
The No. 1 exemption category of 30 for this year's Open is the top 10 and ties from Royal Birkdale in 2008. Of course two-time defending Champion Padraig Harrington heads this list.
Well-known golfers the likes of Ernie Els (2002 Muirfield), Ben Curtis (2003 Royal St. George's), Paul Casey, Steve Stricker and Anthony Kim are also exempt in this category as are lesser known players like David Howell and Chris Wood.
Howell the Englishman who beat playing partner Tiger Woods in the 2006 HSBC Champions has not played well this year on the European Tour. His best finish is tied for 37th at the Qatar Masters.
Wood also an Englishman as an amateur placed joint fifth and won the Silver Medal at Birkdale last year. Since then he went through Q-School to gain his 2009 European Tour card. This 6'5" golfer has four top 10s in 15 events this year including three straight prior to his last tied-30 finish.
With nine players tied for seventh place last year the first exemption category included a total of 15 golfers.
Here is a partial list of the contestants of the 139th rendition of the British Open at Turnberry in a prioritized order of exemption and qualifying categories.
Tony Jacklin and Johnny Miller as past champions are eligible but not expected to compete.
Jacklin age 65 on July 7 won the Open in 1969 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Miller age 62 won the Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale.
There are 12 past champions other than Harrington, Norman, Els and Curtis that are expected to compete at Turnberry.
No. 1 on the Past Champion list, World No. 1 golfer and heavy favorite Tiger Woods has won the Open three times (2000 St. Andrews, 2005 St. Andrews, 2006 Royal Liverpool).
Five-time winner Tom Watson (1975 Carnoustie, 1977 Turnberry, 1980 Muirfield, 1982 Royal Troon, 1983 Royal Birkdale) and three-time winner Nick Faldo (1987 Muirfield, 1990 St. Andrews, and 1992 Muirfield) will be making cameo appearances trying to duplicate the heroic effort of Greg Norman last year.
The other Past Champions who are competing have won only one Open and include Mark Calcavecchia (1989 Royal Troon), John Daly (1995 St. Andrews), David Duval (2001 Royal Lytham & St. Annes), Todd Hamilton (2004 Royal Troon), Paul Lawrie (1999 Carnoustie), Tom Lehman (1996 Royal Lytham & St. Annes), Justin Leonard (1997 Royal Troon), Sandy Lyle (1986 Royal St. Georges), and Mark O'Meara (1998 Royal Birkdale).
Modern era Past Champions not competing include Nick Price (1994 Turnberry), Ian Baker-Finch (1991 Royal Birkdale) and three-time winner Seve Ballesteros (1979 Royal Lytham & St. Annes, 1984 St. Andrews, 1988 Royal Lytham & St. Annes).
The past champion exemption category increased the field by 12 players to a total of 27 competitors.
Another 36 golfers who are not otherwise eligible from the Top 10 last year or as a Past Champion come from the Top 50 of the Official World Golf Rating (OWGR).
Masters champion Angel Cabrera and the two golfers he beat in the playoff at Augusta National Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry are in the field for the 138th Open.
So too are 2008 Tour Championship winner Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia and the 20 year-old youngster Rory McIlroy.
Phil Mickelson is still officially in the field though is soon expected to withdraw and be replaced. Though wife Amy's breast cancer operation went well last week it as recently disclosed his mother Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer too.
That's a total of 63 golfers now in the field.
From the top 30 of the European Tour's 2008 Order of Merit Top there is an additional 14 golfers including Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie. Total 77.
In the eighth category Louis Oosthuizen, Robert Rock and Thongchai Jaidee are in as the First 3 and anyone tying for 3rd place, otherwise not exempt above, in the top 20 of the 2009 PGA European Tour Race to Dubai on completion of the 2009 BMW PGA Championship
Nick Dougherty and Johan Edfors were the top two on a cumulative money list taken from all official PGA European Tour events from OWGR Week 19 up to and including the BMW International Open and including the U.S. Open
Stuart Appleby, Briny Baird, Ken Duke, Dudley Hart, Ryuji Imada, Billy Mayfair, Carl Pettersson, Andrés Romero, Kevin Sutherland, D. J. Trahan and Bubba Watson all finished in the Top 30 on the Official 2008 PGA Tour FedEx Cup points list.
That makes a total of 99.
in the 2009 Mizuno Open Yomiuri Classic.
That's a total of 114.
Bruce Vaughan is the 2008 Senior British Open Champion.
International Final Qualifying took place in Africa, Australia, Asia and the U.S.
In Singapore Gaganjeet Bhullar, Liang Wen-chong, Terry Pilkadaris and Tim Stewart made it while James Driscoll, Fredrik Jacobson, Richard S. Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Martin Laird, Davis Love III, Jeff Overton and Tim Wilkinson qualified in the U.S.
Richard S. Johnson will be unable to defend his title in Milwaukee at the U.S. Bank.
In Europe Paul Broadhurst, Rhys Davies, David Drysdale, Rafael Echenique, Oliver Fisher, Branden Grace, Raphaël Jacquelin, Gary Orr, Richie Ramsay and Graeme Storm qualified for the Open Championship.
That makes 145 with 12 more qualifying at three local sites in Scotland on Tuesday, July 7th.
In Glasgow at the Gailes Links Thomas Aiken, Peter Baker, Elliot Saltman and David Higgins topped the field.
In Kilmarnock at The Brassie course Markus Brier, Lloyd Saltman, Daniel Gaunt and Peter Ellebye took the first step in making their dreams of winning the Open championship come true.
At Western Gailes Fredrik Andersson-Hed, Steve Surry, Thomas Haylock and Daniel Wardrop were the last yesterday to make it in the field.
The story of the final local qualifying was the brothers Lloyd and Elliot Saltman making it to Turnberry. Elliot at age 27 is making his debut Championship appearance. Lloyd at age 23 is coming back for the first time since winning the Silver Medal as Leading Amateur at St Andrews in 2005.
That's a total of 157 but we are not done yet.
There may be two more contestants at Turnberry to be decided on Sunday, July 12.
At the John Deere last year Jay Williamson lost in a playoff to Kenny Perry but earned a trip to the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
His last chance to make it is finishing in the top 5 at the John Deere.
History tends to repeat itself.
At least prior to the making of new history.
It is time to make new history at Turnberry next week in Scotland.
Good luck to Padraig Harrington in his quest for a third straight Claret Jug.
May the contest to determine the "Champion Golfer of the Year and Winner of the Gold Medal" begin…
Additions to the field as of 7/15/09:
Ben Crane, Matthew Goggin, Steve Marino, Thomas Levet.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering for the tournaments and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net