A-Z of the Open
To get in the mood, here's an A-Z guide:
A is for Ayrshire, the region of western Scotland that hosts Turnberry as well as Royal Troon just up the road. It's also for Ailsa Craig, the offshore granite islet which gave its name to Turnberry's Ailsa course. And airfield - Turnberry was used as a RAF base during World War Two and you can still see the runway.
B is for Seve Ballesteros, swashbuckling winner of three Opens (1979, 1984, 1988) who is recovering from a brain tumour. It's also for Birkdale, scene of Padraig Harrington's second straight Open victory 12 months ago. And it's for Britons - Paul Lawrie was the last Brit to win the Open, way back in 1999. And Bruce's Castle, the famous 9th at Turnberry, where you can see remains of the castle of Robert the Bruce, Scottish king from 1306-1329.
C is for Carnoustie, scene of Lawrie's triumph and Harrington's breakthrough major title in 2007. Carnoustie is also the longest-ever Open course at 7,421 yards. C is also for Claret Jug, or more accurately the Golf Champion Trophy, first presented in 1873. The original Claret Jug is on display in St Andrews - the current one has been around since 1928. The winner gets the trophy for one year, but keeps a replica. The champion is always asked what he will put in the jug to drink. Harrington's young son Patrick asked if he could put ladybirds in it.
D is for Duel in the Sun, the famous battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in the Turnberry Open of 1977. The pair left the field trailing in their wake as they threw everything they had at each other. Watson eventually won by one shot. D is also for David Duval, the former world number one and 2001 Open champion. Since then his game's gone south but he tied for second at the US Open in June, and was fourth at halfway at Royal Birkdale last year.
E is for Englishman, notably the fact that the last English player to win the Open was Nick Faldo way back in 1992 at Muirfield. Come on lads, where are you?
F is for Fin me Oot, the name of the 5th hole at Turnberry. The hole is so named because it keeps its secrets hidden, hence "Find me out". Other colourful hole names on the Ailsa course include Mak Siccar (Make sure, 2nd), Blaw Wearie (Out of breath, 3rd), Tappie Toorie (6th), Roon The Ben (7th), Dinna Fouter (Don't mess about, 10th), Ca Canny (Take care, 15th), Lang Whang (Long hit, 17th).
G is for Garcia. Seemingly the perennial bridesmaid. The Spaniard lost in a play-off for the Open in 2007, wilted in the final group with Tiger Woods in 2006 and has suffered a host of other near misses in the big ones. An Open specialist with six top 10s in his last eight championships. But a long-time holder of the "Best player never to have won a major" tag. Surely he will one day. Won't he?
H is for Harrington who is going for three Open titles in a row and a fourth major in all. The last man to achieve a hat-trick of Open titles was Australian Peter Thomson from 1954-6. Nine men have won back-to-back Open titles since 1900. Before Harrington, Tiger Woods also did it in 2005-2006.
I is for Ian as in Poulter, the Englishman who finished four strokes behind Harrington in second last year, and Baker-Finch, the Australian who won at Royal Birkdale in 1991 before his game collapsed completely.
J is for Jack Nicklaus , the greatest golfer of all time with 18 major titles (until Tiger has his wicked way), including three Opens (1966, 1970, 1978). Nicklaus was also second seven times. He played the last of his 38 Opens at St Andrews in 2005 when he bowed out in emotional fashion.
K is for Knight...of the Realm. And there's one in the field this week - none other than Sir Nicholas of Faldo, Open champion in 1987, 1990 and 1992. The former European Ryder Cup captain and six-time major winner was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June. He'll be 52 on Saturday.
L is for Lighthouse, the iconic structure on a rocky promontory beside the 9th hole at Turnberry. It was built in 1873 by Thomas Stevenson, father of writer Robert Louis Stevenson. It's also for Sandy Lyle, the 1985 champion and first Briton to win for 16 years after Tony Jacklin's 1969 triumph. And it's for links, the name given to the type of courses Opens are played on - the dune-like coastal terrain is said to form a "link" between the land and the sea.
M is for Phil Mickelson . The world number two will miss the Open to be with his wife Amy who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. M is also for McIlroy. Young Rory stormed onto the scene with a first-round 68 as an 18-year-old amateur at Carnoustie in 2007. Two years later, the Northern Irishman goes to Turnberry as one of the most exciting talents in professional golf.
N is for Greg Norman, the Great White Shark, who won the Open at Turnberry in 1986 and triumphed again at Royal St George's in 2003. In a remarkable comeback at the age of 53, the veteran Australian created arguably the story of last year's Championship, leading going into the final day before falling back to finish third.
O is for Old Tom Morris, the oldest winner of the Open at 46 years 99 days in 1867. World number four Kenny Perry, who lost out in a play-off for the Masters in April, is 48, while world number 10 Vijay Singh will be 46 years and 147 days on Sunday.
P is for Price and Parnevik. Nick Price beat Jesper Parnevik to win at Turnberry in 1994 after the colourful Swede, thinking he needed to birdie the last, went for broke and made a bogey. Price carded a solid par to claim his first Open and second of three major titles.
Q is for Qualifying. Split into three stages: International Final Qualifying with tournaments in Asia, Africa, Australasia, the US and Europe; Regional Qualifying across 16 venues in the UK and Ireland - the 10 or so qualifiers from each venue go onto Local Final Qualifying where 96 players compete over 36 holes for four spots from each of three venues.
R is for R&A, the organisers of the Open and the game's governing body outside the US and Mexico. Not to be confused with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which is a private club with a membership of 2,400 worldwide.
S is for St Andrews, the town on the east coast of Scotland regarded as the home of golf . The Old Course has hosted a record 27 Opens and will stage next year's championship.
T is for Turnberry, which has staged three Opens previously, in 1977, 1986 and 1994. Since the last Open was held there, Turnberry has been lengthened by 247 yards and will measure 7,204 yards, playing to a par of 70.
U is for Under as in par. Tiger Woods holds the Open record with 19 under, against a par of 72, set at St Andrews in 2000. Woods's aggregate was 269. The lowest aggregate was Greg Norman's 267 (66, 68, 69, 64) for 13 under at Royal St George's in 1993.
V is for the venues, all 14 of them, which have hosted the 137 Opens stretching back to 1860. They are: Carnoustie (7), Muirfield (15), Musselburgh (6), Prestwick (24), Prince's (1), Royal Birkdale (9), Royal Cinque Ports (2), Royal Liverpool (11), Royal Lytham & St Annes (10), Royal Portrush (1), Royal St George's (13), Royal Troon (8), St Andrews (27), Turnberry (3).
V is also for Jean Van de Velde, the quirky Frenchman who famously blew a three-shot lead on the 18th at Carnoustie in 1999. And it's for Harry Vardon, who has won the most Open titles with six (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914).
W is for Woods of the Tiger variety. The world number one, who missed last year's Open through injury, is chasing a 15th major title and a fourth Open. W is also for Tom Watson, winner of the iconic Duel in the sun and a five-time Open champion. And we might as well throw in W for wind and weather. Turnberry could be benign if it's calm and a monster if conditions deteriorate.
X is for, er, eXcitement. The Open has thrown up so many dramatic moments over the years, too many to list. Everyone's got their favourites. How about Harrington's play-off win over Garcia in 2007 for starters. OK, so that's not a great one for X. But see if you can do any better!
Y is for Young Tom Morris - youngest ever Open champion at 17 when he won at Prestwick in 1868. Since 1900, the youngest winner is Seve Ballesteros, who was 22 when he won at Royal Lytham in 1979. Rory McIlory, are you reading? Of course you are...
Z is for Zimbabwe, homeland of 1994 Open champion winner Nick Price. It's also for Zoeller, as in Fuzzy. The wise-cracking American was third behind Price and Jesper Parnevik at Turnberry that year.
If you've got any alternatives, I'd love to hear them so get in touch.
You can also follow my updates from the Open at Turnberry on Twitter.