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Viewer's guide to the British Open at Royal St. George's

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy Photo Credit: Getty Images

Waking up at 3 a.m. to watch televised golf can only mean one this: the 140th British Open is upon us.

Starting on Thursday, 156 golfers will battle the elements at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, for the chance to win golf’s oldest trophy.

On TV

Thurs.: First round, 4 a.m. ESPN
Fri.: Second round, 4 a.m. ESPN
Sat.: Third round, 7 a.m. ESPN
Sun.: Final round, 6 a.m. ESPN

3 players to watch

Rory McIlroy

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland is coming off the biggest victory of his career at the U.S. Open, where he waxed the field by eight shots to capture his first major championship. McIlroy’s brimming with confidence and if he can get off to another hot start, like he did at last year’s British Open, he could definitely be in the mix.

Luke Donald

Besides McIlroy, there may not be another golfer on the planet playing better than Luke Donald. Since missing the cut in his first tournament of the year, the No. 1 player in the world has finished outside the top-10 just once this year. He also has recent success in the British Open, having finished in a tie for fifth and 11th in his last two appearances.

Steve Stricker

At 44, Steve Stricker isn’t sexiest pick to win the Open, but what he lacks in flare he more than makes up for with a rock-solid game that can contend at any major championship. He has two wins in his last three starts, and has as good a shot as any American in the field to take home the Claret Jug.

Keep an eye on …

The fourth-hole bunker

The bunker on the right side of the fourth hole looks like something out of a golf horror story. At more than 40 feet deep, it’s the deepest bunker in championship history, and has a sand face that appears to be reaching towards the sky. Hitting into this hazard could lead to a big score on the hole.

Avoid the middle of the fairway

Unlike most courses where it pays to hit the center of the fairway, that isn’t advisable at St. George’s. The fairways are extremely undulating, so that balls hit to the middle have a tendency to bounce left or right into the rough. The best play is to aim towards the edge of the fairway and work the ball back to the middle.

Newbies welcome

Eight of the 13 British Open champions at Royal St. George’s have been first-time major winners, making past success almost irrelevant when picking a winner this week.
 

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