A-Z of the Open Championship
Do you love the Open? Will the real world take a back seat this week as you follow the fortunes of club-wielding men in bright clothes in a windswept corner of Kent?
Good. You're in the right place, then. To kick things off and get you in the mood, here's an A-Z of the Open.
A is for Americans. Despite all the talk about links golf being a British game, US players have a good record in the Open. Sheer numbers could account for that, of course, but Americans have won seven Opens since 2000 (three by Tiger Woods) and 11 of last 20.
B is for Thomas Bjorn, who led by three shots with four holes to play at Royal St George's in 2003 but finished bogey, double bogey, bogey, par to lose by one. On the 16th, he took three to get out of the greenside bunker. "From the outside I can see why people use the word 'choke' about that Open," he said. "But I can say 100% that from the inside I don't think I did. I know what it is to choke." In the European Open at the K Club in 2005, he led by four with a round to go and finished six, 11, six for an 86. "That, I would say, was a choke," he added.
Thomas Bjorn's hopes of lifting the Claret Jug in 2003 disappeared in the sand - photo: Getty
C is for Ben Curtis, the 2003 champion. The unheralded American, a 300-1 outsider, profited from Bjorn's collapse to win on his major debut. The then 26-year-old was ranked 396th in the world.
D is for Don't. As in don't hit it in the bunkers and don't aim for the flags. "Once you have accepted it's difficult around greens you can actually score well," says Royal St George's head pro Andrew Brooks.
E is for Englishmen. There are two at the top of the world rankings - Luke Donald and Lee Westwood - and the nation is desperate for an Open win. Donald was fourth at the Masters in April and fifth in the Open two years ago, while Westwood has finished in the top three at five of his last seven majors.
F is for Faldo. Sir Nick is still the last Englishman to win the Open, way back in 1992 at Muirfield when he clinched the last of his three Claret Jugs. He is also the last English winner of any major with his 1996 Masters triumph. He gave it a bit of a nudge at Sandwich eight years ago, finishing eighth, and was second there in 1993.
G is for George's as in Royal St. It was discovered by a Scotsman Dr Laidlaw Purves, who is said to have stood atop St Clement's Church in the village of Sandwich and exclaimed: "By George, what a place for a golf course!" Also said to be a nod to St Andrews and named after the patron saint of England. G could also be for Garcia. Spain's Sergio has had six top-10 finishes in the Open and is showing some signs of recovery after a severe dip in form.
H is for Himalaya bunker, the towering sand trap tempting tee shots on the 496-yard par-four fourth hole at Royal St George's. It was the hardest hole in 2003 when it was played as a par five. It's 235 yards to fly the sand and another 30 yards to the fairway, though there's some short stuff left of it too.
I is for Ian Fleming. The James Bond author was a member of Royal St George's and used the course under the name "Royal St. Marks" in his 1959 novel Goldfinger.
J is for Jack. As in Nicklaus. Always was, always will be. Still the greatest golfer of all time with 18 majors, including three Opens (1966, 1970, 1978). Nicklaus was also second seven times. It's also for Claret Jug, from which the winner will be drinking on Sunday evening.
K is for kids. That's the new breed of young players threatening to usurp the more established stars. Rory McIlroy, 22, is already on his way but watch out for Italy's Matteo Manassero, 18, Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, 19, American Rickie Fowler, 22, and Australia's Jason Day, 23, who has already finished second at the Masters and US Open this year.
L is for Lyle. Scotland's Sandy won his first major - the last Open to feature the double cut after rounds two and three - by one stroke over Payne Stewart at Royal St George's in 1985. He also to become the first Briton to clinch the title for 16 years after Tony Jacklin's 1969 victory. L is also for Royal Lytham, where the Open will be staged in 2012.
M is for McIlroy. Who else? Rory is the golf's new superstar and potentially one of the greats after his stunning US Open victory at the age of 22. "Time will tell if he will become a multiple winner, but the one scenario I cannot imagine is that he will turn out to have been a one-hit wonder," said Nicklaus, 71. Attention on him will be fierce this week.
N is Greg Norman. The Australian great scorched around in 64 on the last day to beat Faldo by two shots to win at Royal St George's in 1993. It's also for Northern Ireland, the place that has spawned the last two US Open champions in McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
O is for Louis Oosthuizen. The South African turned last year's Open into a procession with a seven-shot victory at St Andrews. O is also for Old Tom Morris, the oldest winner of the Open at 46 years 99 days in 1867.
P is for Peter Alliss. The BBC's 'voice of golf' will be commentating on his 51st Open at Royal St George's. "My enthusiasm for this event has not dimmed one bit," he said.
Q is for qualifying. More than 2,500 golfers play qualifiers across five continents over seven months for the chance to compete in the Open Championship.
R is for Mark Roe, the Englishman who was disqualified following his third-round 67 in 2003 after he and playing partner Jesper Parnevik forgot to swap cards. Roe was in a tie for third and should have had the dream pairing with Tiger Woods on the last day. But he watched the finish at home and spent the evening in floods of tears.
S is for Seve Ballesteros, who died aged 54 on 7 May this year after a long battle with cancer. The five-time major winner was a firm favourite with British crowds and clinched the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988. His daring, flamboyant style and passionate charisma made Ballesteros an icon and transformed the image of golf. "Very few people are called legends in this world and Seve was one of them," said Colin Montgomerie.
T is for Tom as in Watson. Or Turnberry, scene of his famous and, for many of his fans, agonising near-miss in the Open at the age of 59 two years ago. Could he repeat it in Kent? Watson won the US PGA Senior Championship in May.
U is for under as in par. Tiger Woods holds the major record with 19 under, set at St Andrews in 2000. At Sandwich in 2003, only Ben Curtis finished under par.
V is for the venues, all 14 of them, which have hosted the 139 previous Opens stretching back to 1860. They are: St Andrews (28), Prestwick (24), Muirfield (16), Royal St George's (13), Royal Liverpool (12), Royal Lytham & St Annes (11), Royal Birkdale (9), Royal Troon (8), Carnoustie (7), Musselburgh (6), Turnberry (4), Royal Cinque Ports (2), Prince's (1), Royal Portrush (1). V is also for Harry Vardon, who has won the most Open titles with six between 1896 and 1914.
W is for Woods. Remember him? The struggling 14-time major champion is missing this week with that troublesome left leg injury. Debate still rages over whether he will win another major, let alone beat Nicklaus's record. Woods might not have happy memories of Sandwich, though. He lost his ball in the rough on the first in 2003. W is also for wind and weather, the links course's natural defence. "The weather will dictate the score, rather than the course set-up," said Donald.
X is for xeric, which means "containing little moisture, very dry". So either the yellowing links of an iconic sun-bleached Open, or the mouths of the leaders playing the last few holes about tea time on Sunday.
Y is for Young Tom Morris, the youngest ever Open champion at 17 years five months three days when he won at Prestwick in 1868. Since 1900, the youngest winner has been Seve Ballesteros, who was 22 years three months 12 days when he won at Royal Lytham in 1979. McIlroy is 22 and two months.
Z is for zero hour. The first group will get the 140th Open Championship under way at 0630 BST on Thursday. It's also for zenith - for many, winning the Open will be the high point of their career.