Championship that is wide Open

IT'S been 15 years since Nick Price edged out Jesper Parnevik in their titanic battle and that monster putt; 23 years since Greg Norman romped home a class above the rest of the field; and 33 years since Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus went head-to-head in their epic 'dual in the sun'.

But today (Thursday) The Open returns to Turnberry for only the fourth time in its history.

Some of the world's finest golfers have tackled the Ailsa Course – arguably the finest golfing location in the world.

The Open itself has produced some marvellous sporting moments – Costantino Rocca's unbelievable putt up the 'Valley of Sin' at St Andrews in 1995 to set up a play-off against eventual winner John Daly; Paul Lawrie's sublime approach to the final play-off hole to set up victory at Carnoustie in 1999 and Tiger Woods' emotional victory in 2006 at Hoylake.

And Turnberry as provided its own share of thrills and spills in that time too.

The best of the best swing into the Carrick coast thisweek to contest The Open Championship.

World number one Tiger Woods will undoubtedly be the bookies' favourite to take the Claret Jug but there has been something of an European revival over the past couple of years – particularly at The Open.

Infact since the tournament was last held at Turnberry there have been only three winners from outside the United States.

Paul Lawrie, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington are the only non-American winners of the Claret Jug since 1994.

Current Open champion, and winner of the previous two championships, Harrington will be out to forget about his poor performance at the US Open last month and make it three in a row – the first man to do so since Aussie Peter Thomson, who actually won five in a row. If form is anything to go by when picking a major winner, then world number three Casey must be in with more than a good shout of winning.

Ross Fisher, heading to Turnberry on the back of his fine performance at Bethpage Black, will fancy his chances of becoming the first Brit to win since Paul Lawrie 10 years ago at Carnoustie.

Poulter finished runner up last year and has the game, and the ability, to go one better and win. He is also fancied by Brunston Castle Pro Stuart Smith to do very well this year, and he also reckoned Paul Casey could also be in with a shout on Sunday evening.

Turnberry Club Captain Peter Wiseman would like to present the Claret Jug on Sunday evening to the first Asian winner of The Open.

In our profile piece last week, we looked at KJ Choi and out of all the Asian players taking part, he does appear to have the game most suited to links golf.

But there is also another seven players from Japan including the highly rated Ryo Ishikawa who could finish top of the pile.

Despite being only 17 years of age, many experts in the game feel he certainly has the skill, but also the mental toughness to cope with the pressure.

And he might be able to get some extra 'local knowledge' during his first two rounds when he plays with Colin Montgomerie.

The Gazette's horse racing guru, The Minstrel, reckons Sergio Garcia could be the man to lift the Jug but also fancied the chances of 1997 Champion Justin Leonard to complete a South Ayrshire double.

But if his practice rounds are anything to go by, then Tiger could well blitz the rest of the field as well as the course.

In his last success at Royal Liverpool he used his driver just once throughout the four days. Accuracy will be key over the Ailsa course and if the weather stays calm the crowds flocking to the Carrick course will be treated to some very low scores, but if the winds picks up they players will be met with an extremely tough examination of their shotmaking.

The Open, Turnberry 2009 bring it on.