A most open Open

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Open ChampionshipI dont know about you, but I am looking forward to the most open Open since 1999. I find it quite interesting to look at the world rankings, take away Tiger, throw the other 49 names in a hat, actually make it 46 (Kenny Perry and Shingo Katayama arent bothering to go to Royal Birkdale; Luke Donald is injured) and then pick one.
 
As far as I know thats probably the best way you have at picking a winner. And do you know what? I like it.
 
The one thing I hope is the critics dont put a little asterisk into the history books with a footnote that says: Tiger Woods not present in the field. Whoever wins this title deserves it whole-heartedly.
 
I have had the pleasure of playing Royal Birkdale on a couple of occasions. The course is located in the Northwest part of the country in Southport. Its a Victorian holiday resort which can only be described as typically English ' small family run hotels, B&Bs, sweet shops selling northern rock (a devastatingly hard candy stick) and fish and chip shops are everywhere.
 
Its fun, if you like that sort of thing. If youre a golfer, its heaven. Using Southport as a base you can easily reach Birkdale, Hillside, Hesketh, Southport and Ainsdale, Royal Lytham, Formby and Hoylake, and it doesnt get much better than those gems. Geographically, its about two hours drive south of the Scottish border and a five-hour drive from London. The nearest major international airport is Manchester.
 
When the Open Championship paraphernalia is gone, the clubhouse sits like a lonely beacon amongst the barren landscape. Theres a long drive through a playing field from the main road down to the clubhouse and does look rather out a place.
 
From the golf course, though, it radiates out across the links; all great courses have to have a clubhouse to complement them and Royal Birkdales fits the bill. The members who are lucky enough to be sitting in the bar tucked behind that huge bay-window at the back of 18 will have the best seat in the house.
 
The clinking of the flag against the mast is the first thing you hear when you step out of the car at a links course. Because rest assured, there are no completely still days. Its no different at Birkdale, I can hear it now in my mind.
 
Sadly with all the hullabaloo at an Open Championship the sound gets washed away, but I do hope somewhere that clinking gets a bit louder at some stage this week, I do enjoy it when the wind blows, the rain comes in, and the worlds best get treated to a little piece of Mother Nature, especially when Im watching in the warm and dry.
 
My picks:
Favorite: Sergio Garcia
Dark-horse: Oliver Wilson
Complete outsider: Alex Noren
 
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
 
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