World’s greatest golfers start to arrive at Royal Birkdale
Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas among some of the players already practicing at Royal Birkdale.
Fans who ventured out to Royal Birkdale on Sunday for the start of The 146th Open week were greeted by sunny skies, a gentle breeze and the chance to watch several of the game’s biggest names begin their championship preparation.
Players are beginning to arrive to the Southport links in increasing numbers, starting with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson who got in some practice alongside U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Johnson actually got in some early work on Saturday, as did world No.2 Hideki Matsuyama. Both players have now completed two practice rounds.
The same can be said for 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year Rory McIlroy, who hopes to bounce back from two consecutive missed cuts. McIlroy played Royal Birkdale in The Amateur in 2005, but this will mark his first Open appearance here.
“I think Birkdale is one of the best, if not the best course that we play in The Open rota,” McIlroy said. “You’ve really got to position your ball well, and it gives you options around the greens whether you want to putt from off the green or you want to chip it. So it tests every aspect of your game, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while.”
The man who preceded McIlroy in lifting the Claret Jug, Phil Mickelson, was among the contingent practicing on Sunday, as were fellow Americans Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker.
Two-time Champion Golfer of the Year Ernie Els began preparation for what will be his 23rd appearance, while Scots Russell Knox and Martin Laird played an afternoon practice round together. England’s Danny Willett was among the morning wave, as were South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.