British Open 2012: Tournament Guide for the Open Championship

Carlos TorresContributor IJuly 16, 2012

British Open 2012: Tournament Guide for the Open Championship

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    The 141st Open Championship begins on Thursday in Lancashire, England and will be making its return to the Royal Lytham & St Annes course for the 11th time in tournament history.

    This year marks the first time that consecutive Open Championships will be held outside Scotland since 1952 and the first time ever for consecutive Open Championships in England.

    American amateur Bobby Jones won The Open the first time it was played at this year's host course in 1926. Back then he had to pay to play and became the only champion to ever have to do so.

    The last time it was played here in 2001, David Duval got his lone major win, but it will also be forever remembered by the two-stroke penalty the overnight leader on Sunday, Ian Woosnam, had to take after he discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag—one more than allowed.

    Last year, Darren Clarke realized one of his biggest dreams when he won The Open and it became one of the most popular wins in recent years. He will be trying to become the first player to win in consecutive years since Padraig Harrington in 2007-08.

    This year the first two majors have come down to the last hole and you can expect nothing less from The Open Championship as it should provide plenty of challenges to the 156-player field.

    Let's take a look at the important things you need to know about this year's tournament.

The Schedule of Play and TV Coverage

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    Regulation Schedule

    The tournament will start this Thursday, July 19 and will end on Sunday, July 22. 

    The event is played as a 72-hole stroke play tournament with a cut after the first 36 holes limited to the top 70 players and ties.

    Playoff

    If there is a tie for the lead at the end of 72 holes, The Open has a different way to play extra holes to determine the winner.

    The Open features a four-hole playoff for all golfers tied at the end of regulation, with the playoff continuing into sudden-death holes if competitors remain tied after four holes.

    TV Broadcast Schedule

    ESPN will be broadcasting the tournament. The broadcast schedule according to the PGA Tour webpage:

    Thursday, July 19: 5:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET

    Friday, July 20: 5:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET

    Saturday, July 21: 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. ET

    Sunday, July 22: 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. ET

The Course

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    The Royal Lytham & St. Annes golf course is flanked by a railway line and suburban houses. It's not your typical breathtaking venue but will definitely make the players lose theirs with the challenge it brings to them.

    This year, the course will be tougher to play then when The Open was played here 11 years ago. For starters, players will play it one shot better as it will be a par 70.

    If this were not enough, several holes on the course have been lengthened for a total of 181 extra yards. The course now measures 7,086 yards compared to the 6,905 yards it played when David Duval won in 2001.

    Accuracy off the tee is of the utmost importance. A total of 206 bunkers—an average of 11 per hole—dotted in the tight fairways and around the greens will make players pay for their inaccuracies.

    Players will start on the only par three opening hole on the Open rota. They have to check for the swirling wind because the green is guarded by nine bunkers, so club selection will be the key to not starting your round with a bogey or worse.

    And after they make the trip through the next sixteen holes, they will have to finish their rounds at the imposing 18th hole. The additional two traps and the proximity of the clubhouse wall to the back of the green is an intimidating sight.

    All around, every player must be ready to play some sand saves. They will be reaching a sand trap at one point or another during the tournament.

    Whomever plays it better off the tee on this tight links course will have the advantage here.

The Weather

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    When you talk about weather at The Open Championship, you talk about links golf weather, also known as bad-weather golf.

    According to AccuWeather.com the weather has been terrible for the Lancashire area in the northwest part of England. The long-range forecast is for it to continue into next week.

    This means that the players have to be ready for rain and gusting winds off the coast, forcing them to use thick mitts between shots and huddle under flapping umbrellas at times.

    Expect to see the players use their complete assortment of link-style shots and knowledge at their disposal.

    The expected conditions will make it a tougher test than it already is.

The Numbers

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    Most Victories

    Harry Vardon has the most Open Championship wins with six (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914).

    Most Consecutive Wins

    Young Tom Morris won The Open four consecutive times in 1868, 1869, 1870, 1872 (there was no championship in 1871).

    Longest Span between First and Last Win

    John Henry Taylor won his first Open on 1894. His fifth, and last, win came in 1913—19 years later.

    Oldest and Youngest Winners

    The oldest winner is "Old" Tom Morris who was 46 when he won in 1867. The youngest was his son, "Young" Tom Morris , who was 17 when he won the following year.

    Highest Ranked Player to Win

    Ben Curtis was a PGA Tour Rookie ranked No. 396 in the world when he won the 2003 Open.

    Lowest 72-hole Score in Relation to Par

    Tiger Woods' 19-under-par in 2000, which is also a record for all major championships.

    Lowest 18-hole Score in Relation to Par

    Nine-under par by Paul Broadhurst in 1990 in the third round, and Rory McIlroy in the opening round in 2010.

    Most Appearances

    Gary Player holds the record for most Open appearances with 46. He also won it three times (1959, 1968 and 1974)  which makes him the only golfer in the 20th century to win the Open in three different decades.

The Field

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    Tiger Woods headlines the 156-player field that will compete at Royal Lytham & St Annes starting this Thursday.

    On Saturday, only the leading 70, and those tied for 70th place after two rounds, will qualify to play the final 36 holes.

    Woods, a three-time Open winner, will be looking to win his first since winning it in consecutive years in 2005-06. He will also be looking to win his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Also be present will be the triumvirate of the top three players in the world: Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

    McIlroy is looking to erase the memories of the past two years in The Open. He says his slump is over and he is completely focused on The Open. He will need to be if he is to challenge on the tough course and conditions ahead.

    Donald and Westwood are the two prominent names that will be going for their first major and to erase their names off the "best players never to win a major" list. They will also look to end the drought of England homegrown players failing to win The Open.

    The last one to do it was Nick Faldo at Muirfield in 1992 when he won his third Open.

    Another Englishman that will also have a lot of eyes on him will be Justin Rose. He is the current leader in the Race to Dubai and is having his best moment in golf.

    Bubba Watson has never fared well at The Open. But this year he won The Masters in sensational fashion.

    Louis Oosthuizen lost to Watson at The Masters on the extra holes. He has been off-form lately but we must remember that he had made only one cut in his eight previous majors before running away by seven shots en route to the title at St. Andrews in 2010.

    Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson are two-time winners this year on the PGA Tour. Dufner and Johnson are riding a lot of momentum into The Open and have the game to be a factor here.

    Mahan is a streaky player that, when he is on his game, can light up any course and challenge anyone for the title.

    Two-time winner Padraig Harrington is showing signs of bouncing back into top form and has the game to succeed here. He is another player in the field to watch closely.

    Few players can claim to have a better record—without winning—at The Open than Sergio Garcia. He has seven top-10 finishes and it took a bogey on the 18th hole in 2007 to set up the playoff loss to Harrington. He is a must watch.

    Ernie Els won in 2002 and has five top-five finishes. The Big Easy has put aside the slump he was in last year and looks poised to revive his career. A win here would do just that.

    Phil Mickelson will relish playing under the bad weather. Last year, he put on a show but fell short of making a miraculous comeback win. He can take a page from Bob Charles' book. Charles won the 1963 Open and became the first first left-handed player to win a major.

    Fifteen different players have won the last 15 majors, and the last nine of those have been first-time major winners. The field is loaded with players fitting that bill.

    Will the streak continue or will there be a repeat winner?

    Withdrawals

    We know three players that won't be able to win it this year.

    U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson had to withdraw as his wife is due to give birth. This marks the second time in five years the U.S. Open champ will not be present at The Open.

    Jason Day had to follow suit as his wife is also due to give birth to their first child.

    Also last week, Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Open Champion at Royal Birkdale, withdrew due to injury.

    Former Open Winners Playing

    Tom Watson (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982-83)
    Tiger Woods (2000, 2005-06)
    Padraig Harrington (2007-08)
    Louis Oosthuizen (2010)
    Stewart Cink (2009)
    Todd Hamilton (2004)
    Ben Curtis (2003)
    Ernie Els (2002)
    David Duval (2001)
    Paul Lawrie (1999)
    Justin Leonard (1997)
    Tom Lehman (1996)
    John Daly (1995)
    Mark Calcavecchia (1989)
    Sandy Lyle (1985)

The Tee Times

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    The Open tee times for the first two rounds were released today and the pairings for the first two days have feature groups that promise to deliver great action for the fans.

    Let's take a look at some of the featured groups and their tee times. Keep in mind the times specified are local to Lancashire (BST) and the EST will be in parenthesis.

    The earliest tee time begin at 6:19 a.m. (1:19 a.m. ET) and the last tee time will be at 4:11 p.m. (11:11 a.m. ET).

    Odds-on favorite to win, former world's No. 1 and three-time Open champ Tiger Woods is paired with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

    This will be a grouping that will surely have a huge following both days. Woods is going for his fourth Open title and 15th career major win. Rose is an Englishman of whom great things have been expected for a while and Garcia is always a threat here but is still looking for his first win.

    They will tee off on Thursday at 9:42 a.m. local time (4:42 a.m. ET) and at 2:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m. ET) local time on Friday.

    The defending champ, Darren Clarke, will play alongside 2002 Open champion Ernie Els and Zach Johnson, who is fresh off his win at the John Deere Classic. They will tee off at 9:09 a.m. (4:09 ET) on Thursday and at 2:10 p.m. (9:10 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    The world's No. 1 player, Luke Donald, is paired with Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy. They will tee off at 2:43 p.m. (9:43 a.m. ET) on Thursday and 9:31 a.m (4:31 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    The world's No. 2  and 2011 U.S. Open champ, Rory McIlroy, will play alongside 2010 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 PGA champion Keegan Bradley. They tee off at 2:21 p.m. (9:21 a.m. ET) on Thursday and 9:09 a.m. (4:09 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    The world's No. 3, Lee Westwood, is paired with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Japan's Yoshinori Fujimoto. They tee off at 9:20 a.m. (4:20 a.m. ET) on Thursday and at 2:21 p.m. (9:21 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    Jason Dufner, who has two wins this year on the PGA Tour, will play with Martin Laird and Kevin Na. They will tee off at 10:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. ET) on Thursday and 3:16 p.m. (10:16 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    Matt Kuchar, who won The Players Championship this year, is paired with Adam Scott and amateur Alan Dunbar. Their tee time on Thursday will be at 8:42 a.m. (3:42 a.m. ET) and 1:43 p.m. (8:43 a.m. ET) on Friday.

    For complete details on all the pairings you can go to the official Open Championship webpage by clicking here.