The Open day one: Little love for the course as battle begins for Claret Jug

Royal St George’s is not the players’ favourite course on The Open rotation and world number one Dustin Johnson admits the eventual champion will probably need a slice of fortune and the odd lucky bounce to win the Claret Jug.

The general train of thought is that the bumpy fairways of the Sandwich links often unfairly throw good shots off line, and lush and thick rough has only encouraged some of those here this week to voice their opinions.

Lee Westwood claimed the R&A were considering watering the fairways – unheard of during an Open Championship – to reduce the amount of roll and lessen the chances of ending up in the long grass.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka was among the most outspoken on his lack of love for the course but fellow American Johnson is taking a more pragmatic approach.

“A bounce here or there can definitely be the difference between winning a major or not,” said Johnson, who was in contention to win in the final round at St George’s in 2011 only to go out of bounds on the par-five 14th.

“Definitely around links golf courses or at the Open Championship that can definitely come into play a little bit more, but everybody is playing the same golf course, and it’s all the same humps and bumps for everybody.”

Clue to the champion?

Branden Grace standing in front of The Open signage
Does South Africa’s Branden Grace hold the key to identifying the next Open champion? (Peter Byrne/PA)

South Africa’s Branden Grace has played with the eventual winner in the first two rounds of the last two Opens.

At Carnoustie in 2018 he was paired with Francesco Molinari and a year later he went out with Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on Thursday and Friday.

This year he has Jordan Spieth, the 2017 champion who has enjoyed a return to form this season, and Bryson DeChambeau, last year’s US Open winner and world number six.

Selected tee times

7:52am: Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Abraham Ancer
9.25am: Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Branden Grace
9.58am: Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen
2.48pm: Phil Mickelson, Tyrrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner
3.21pm: Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith

Weather forecast

Dry, bright and sunny to start on Thursday, becoming cloudy towards midday. Wind 10-14mph, gusting 20-25mph. Maximum temperature 23 degrees Celsius.