The British Open – Can an English Player Win at Royal Birkdale?

Some of the world’s best golfers are currently in action at Merseyside’s Royal Birkdale Golf Club, attempting to win one of the sport’s most prestigious events. So what makes the British Open so special and who will win the Claret Jug this year?

The British Open – A Major Tournament with a Rich Heritage

Not only is the tournament one of the sport’s major championships, it’s also the oldest of the four. The first edition of it took place at Scotland’s Prestwick Golf Club in 1860, and only professionals could compete. However, the rules were changed before the second edition to allow amateurs to enter.

Fourteen different venues have hosted the championship, including St. Andrews, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Musselburgh Links. This year’s venue, Royal Birkdale, has hosted it on nine previous occasions, the first of which was in 1954.

Willie Park Sr, who won the inaugural tournament, was presented with a red Moroccan leather belt, known as “the Challenge Belt”. However, the tournament’s rules stipulated that, should any player win the event three times, he would be allowed to keep the coveted award.

That feat was achieved by Tom Morris Jr in 1870 and a new trophy was subsequently commissioned. This stunning silver award was officially named “The Golf Champion Trophy”, but it soon came to be known by another name: the Claret Jug.

Since 1928, the winners of the golf trophy have been presented with a replica of it, while the original Claret Jug remains at St. Andrews. However, that hasn’t stopped some of the greatest golfers in history from desperately wanting to win the event. Famous names to have triumphed at the tournament over the years include Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

The 2017 Championship Contenders – Who Will Claim the Claret Jug?

Last year’s winner, Henrik Stenson, is planning to try to defend his title at this year’s tournament, which will conclude on Sunday. The Swedish player hasn’t won a tournament since the 2016 championship, however, and didn’t sound confident in the run-up to the event.

“I know I’m not really where I want to be in my game and maybe nothing else, either,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend, “but I’ll try to enjoy.”

Stenson isn’t the only player to have been struggling recently either. Despite still being the World Number 1, Dustin Johnson’s 2017 performances have been disappointing, while Rory McIlroy’s tournament attempts have been hampered by an ongoing back injury.

No English player has won the championship since 1992, when Nick Faldo claimed the Claret Jug for the third time. Could that change this year? Justin Rose, the Olympic gold medallist, hasn’t been consistently at the top of his game for some time. However, he is a fan of the course, having finished joint fourth as a 17-year-old amateur there in the 1998 championship.

Some experts have named another Brit, Tommy Fleetwood, as a 2017 title contender. However, players who could stand in the way of the Southport-born golfer, who won the HNA Open de France earlier this month, include Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Do you think an English player can win the Claret Jug this year? Tell us who your favourite for the title is in the comments section, on Facebook or on Twitter.