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Andy Skinner: Scots aiming to make own mark on an Open Championship like no other

Robert MacIntyre
Robert MacIntyre

It is hard to imagine a golfing major laced with a more vast and varied set of tales than this year’s Open Championship.

The 150th staging of the tournament, being held at the home of golf in St Andrews, makes it a momentous occasion in itself.

Tiger Woods’ confirmation he would play the event following the Masters in April, after making his playing comeback from life-threatening injuries suffered in a car crash, added an altogether new layer of allure to the Open billing.

Doubt remains over the long-term fitness of Woods, who has won two previous Open Championships at St Andrews. That grows the possibility this could be his final outing at the Old Course.

Tiger Woods returns to The Open at 3pm on Thursday.

Given it has been seven years since the Open was last held on Fife’s east coast, the notion one of the game’s big-hitters could break a score of 60 has been increasingly floated.

The firm conditions, allied to the forecast lack of wind throughout the weekend, has given rise to predictions of low-scoring.

That is before even mentioning the LIV Golf controversy, and the potential future implications for players who have signed up to the newly-created tour in the context of these majors.

This weekend’s tournament has been widely seen as a welcome break from much of the fallout that has taken place in recent weeks.

Whatever the main motivation for spectators, the R&A’s confirmation a record-breaking crowd of 290,000 will attend during the course of the week evidences the magnitude of the event.

Three Scots eager to make their mark on historic stage

In the midst of the fanfare are three Scots, each of which has a backstory which enhances the tournament.

The action begins in earnest at 6.35am on Thursday, with 1999 champion Paul Lawrie hitting the first shot.

It will be no new phenomenon for Lawrie, who was given the same honour in 2010 as a result of his famous Carnoustie triumph 23 years ago.

Paul Lawrie hits the first ball of The Open Championship in 2010.

Given the prestige surrounding this particular Open however, Lawrie, who stepped away from the European Tour in 2020, is bound to consider this to be an even greater accolade.

While the opening tee shot will come and go in a flash, the R&A have also bestowed a permanent tribute upon Lawrie for his contribution to the game.

That comes in the form of an honorary membership of the organisation, which he, together with Woods and Rory McIlroy, has accepted.

At the other end of the scale from Lawrie’s rich array of Open experience, his protege David Law is preparing to make his major championship debut.

Law, also of Aberdeen, could not have envisaged a better stage to make such a bow.

A delighted David Law has booked his place in the 150th Open.

His qualification came as a result of his tied fourth finish at the recent Horizon Irish Open, which he followed up with another creditable showing at last weekend’s Genesis Scottish Open.

That proves Law’s game is in a good place coming into this tournament – which he begins at 2.15pm on Thursday along with Shugo Imahira and Jason Scrivener.

At 31, Law will hope it is the breakthrough for many more majors to follow. Having amassed a number of years’ experience on the DP World Tour, topped off by winning the ISPS Handa Vic Open in his debut season in 2019, he will be relishing the opportunity to introduce himself on this stage.

It is Robert MacIntyre, as the top-ranked Scot at 105th in the world, who most will look to as the greatest hope of home glory however.

MacIntyre has had no issue making himself at home on the Open scene. After an impressive tied-sixth finish at Royal Portrush in 2019, he went on to secure another top-10 placing when he was tied-eighth at Royal St George’s last year.

Robert MacIntyre.

He arrives at St Andrews on the back of a disappointing showing at the Genesis Scottish Open, in which he missed the cut by finishing five-over-par over his opening two rounds.

A first major on Scottish soil will give MacIntyre plenty incentive to produce another stellar Open Championship showing, when he tees off at 8.25am on Thursday.