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A look ahead to the 144th Open Championship

The Open is one of golf’s four major championship events and features some of the greatest professionals on the planet. Every year, the top players in the world descend on St Andrews as they compete in a three-day event for one of the sport’s most prestigious trophies. This year’s championship will begin on the 16th July and the 2015 Open event could see the winner’s prize money pass the £1 million total for the very first time. Last year’s champion Rory McIlroy – and current world number one – will be looking to defend his crown against some of the world’s best players, including England’s Justin Rose and Masters champion Jordan Spieth. The Northern Irishman will be quietly confident of his chances after an excellent start to the 2015 season but will remain level headed as he prepares for the upcoming event.

The second major of the golfing season, the US Open, is set to get under way this week and the 26-year-old will compete directly with defending champion Martin Kaymer after the two were paired together in the draw. Although this tournament may not give any clues towards Scotland’s event next month, McIlroy will be looking to land a huge psychological blow to Kaymer and the other competitors as he aims to remain clear as the best player in the world. At the time of writing, the Northern Irishman is priced at 4/1 with betfair to retain the Open Championship in July, while world number two Jordan Spieth is valued at 9/1. The tournament is one of the greatest competitions on the sporting calendar and golf fans from all over the world are set to attend the world famous event. We consider just a few of the contenders for the 144th Open Championship and provide our thoughts on their chances this year.

McIlroy will fancy his chances of retaining his title this year as he attempts to claim the fifth major championship of his career. The Northern Irishman won two professional tournaments last month – the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship – and will be looking to take that form into the summer months. In fact, McIlroy set a new record at the Wells Fargo Championship as he finished seven strokes ahead of his nearest competitor, completing four rounds of golf in just 267 shots. In 2014’s Open Championship, he earned a thrilling two shot victory over Spain’s Sergio Garcia and America’s Rickie Fowler to join Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three of golf’s major championships under the age of 25. If he can defend his crown and win a fifth major title, he will further stake his claim as one of the greatest golf players of all-time. McIlroy will be hoping to celebrate this year’s tournament in a similar style to last year.

However, new kid on the block Spieth is threatening McIlroy’s dominance in the sport and the youngster will fancy his chances of causing an upset in this year’s Open Championship. The newly crowned Masters champion – who broke a number of records at Augusta National this year – is full of confidence after a phenomenal start to the calendar year but has struggled in recent weeks. The 21-year-old missed the cut in May’s Players Championship while he finished joint-17th in the Match Play Championship. Despite these setbacks, Spieth has climbed up to second in the world rankings and will plan on displacing the Northern Irishman at the top of the standings in the near future. The American is extremely talented and is a future candidate for the number one player in the world. If he can improve his consistency in the build-up to this event, Spieth will stand a great chance of claiming his second major title of the season.

England’s Justin Rose is also having a sensational year and could feature among the leaders throughout the event. The world number six finished second to Jordan Spieth at Augusta, finishing with an incredible 14-under-par score. In fact, that total would have been good enough to win each of the previous three tournaments, but the young American was just too good. Since the Masters, Rose has gone on to perform well in a number of competitions. The Englishman won the Zurich Classic, finishing on 22-under-par, while he also finished ahead of Spieth in the Memorial Tournament as he claimed second place. Rose has struggled at the Open Championship throughout his illustrious career but, with a bit of luck, he is more than capable of making the cut and, at the very least, should be looking to equal his greatest ever finish of fourth at the iconic event.

The Open Championship is set to be competitive and there could be a number of shock performances that light up the tournament. American Phil Mickelson remains a top player and is capable of beating the very best on his day, while Tiger Woods has struggled for consistency and recently hit a career-worst round of 85 at the Memorial Tournament. McIlroy and Spieth are likely to be there or thereabouts and should climb up the leaderboard as the championship progresses. The newly crowned Masters champion will be hungry for a second major in 2015, but title holder McIlroy may be too strong as the Northern Irishman hunts a fifth major success.

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