Sports

DUSTIN'S 
MAJOR GAME

Big-hitting American fancied to rule at Troon

The last six British Opens held at Royal Troon have been won by Americans and Dustin Johnson, the hottest player in golf, looks like he has all the credentials to send the US into seventh heaven this week.

Not only did the big-hitting 32-year-old follow up his victory at last month's US Open by capturing the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title in Ohio, he also has a good record in the world's oldest Major.

Johnson has finished in the top 14 in four of his seven trips to the British Open and came within a whisker of landing the coveted Claret Jug in 2011 when he wound up in a tie for second place behind Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke.

"He has a lot of spotlight on him this week because he has won the last two events he's played and they've been pretty big events," world No. 1 Jason Day told reporters on the windswept Ayrshire coastline.

"He's typically played pretty well in the Open championship, so he's obviously going to be a very tough guy to beat."

Johnson's surge to second in the world rankings has come as a surprise to some.

His namesake Zach Johnson, however, believes it was always destined to happen.

"He's a supreme athlete and it just so happens that his sport for all of us, unfortunately, is golf," said the British Open title holder Zach. "Not many guys can do what he does."

SPECTACULAR FORM

Day's form has also been pretty spectacular, having won seven times in the past 12 months to rise to the summit of the rankings.

The Australian suffered a near-miss last year when he ended up in a share of fourth place at St Andrews.

Jordan Spieth won the US Masters and US Open in 2015 and is almost certain to figure prominently on the Troon leaderboard.

The 22-year-old American, however, has been the subject of intense scrutiny this week following his decision on Monday to opt out of next month's Rio Olympics due to health concerns.

With the benefit of hindsight, Spieth clearly would have made his announcement before Monday's Games deadline.

"I wish I could have made it as early as possible, not only for myself but also for Olympic golf, USA Golf," said the world No. 3.

"I certainly was not trying to wait until the last minute. I just couldn't make a decision and... I was very indecisive with it."

The other member of the so-called 'Big Four' of world golf, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, is pleased to be back at his home Open after being sidelined last year because of an injury sustained while playing a friendly football game.

"I guess it's the start of a new chapter for me in the Open championship," said the 2014 winner.

"It was very disappointing to miss last year but I'm determined not to miss any more for the foreseeable future, and it's great to be back and have another chance to win another Claret Jug," added world No. 4 McIlroy. - Reuters.

Phachara eager to have fun

Thailand's teenage sensation Phachara Khongwatmai just wants to "have fun" as he competes at this week's British Open at Royal Troon.

Phachara (inset), who turned 17 only in May, is the youngest player in the field after qualifying in sensational fashion back in December.

"I'm proud and feel lucky that I have a chance to play in an event like this. It's like an accident that I'm here," said Phachara, as he took in the surroundings on Scotland's west coast.

Phachara owes his spot at Troon to his impressive sixth-place finish at the Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour, where he came in ahead of the likes of Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

"I didn't expect to get a chance to play in a Major so soon in my career. If I make the cut here, I'll be happy. If I don't make the cut, I'm also happy," said Phachara, who was just 14 when he became the youngest golfer to win a professional tournament in his native Thailand in July 2013.

He knows the fresh and potentially windy conditions at Troon will be a new experience.

"I think my bunker play, chipping and putting are my strong parts. I don't want to get too worried about the obstacles here. I will try to relax and hopefully play well.

"I'm looking to have fun." - AFP.

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