Local lad Fleetwood flattered to be Open contender

The R&A have preferred in recent years to have an Open champion of note hit the first ball in the 6.35 am slot, and fittingly O'Meara, who won his title at Birkdale in a play-off in 1998, is their choice this year.

"It's very touching, actually, seeing things like that". The 26-year-old golfer is not only local to the Southport area but is in a tremendous run of form that has seen him take the lead in the European Tour's Order of Merit, the Race to Dubai.

"For me growing up Royal Birkdale wasn't a course that I would be playing on". Of course you're nervous, but I wasn't out of control.

On the increased expectations, Fleetwood added: "I'd much rather be in this position where people might be talking about me as a contender than turning up and sort of being a no-show".

"I've thought about winning The Open since I was five years old so, thinking about it another few days isn't going to make any difference to me". That is not to say none of those guys can turn things around. "Whether I do well or not, I'm going to have a lot of people rooting for me and that's going to be lovely". "Apart from that, I don't remember much about that, apart from I didn't get many autographs".

"I get so pumped up with the crowds and the kind of golf we have to play here, it obviously helps out".

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"I think Birkdale is a great golf course".

Rahm is among the favourites to get his hands on the Claret Jug after demonstrating his credentials by blowing away the field to win the Irish Open by six strokes, finishing a tournament-record 24 under.

Norman would not be surprised to see another player join the list of major-winners due to a combination of the quality of emerging talent and the inconsistency of some of the leading lights.

Somebody important - probably the USA TV network NBC - must like their Thursday lie-ins because it seems the biggest names are stacked in the afternoon section of the draw on the first day, but the long range weather forecast has winds getting up to 25-30 miles per hour in the afternoon and evening which could favour the earlier starters.

"Jordan Spieth has got a good opportunity as he seems to be on a consistently high level week in, week out".

"I've also played with Todd Hamilton a couple of dozen times over the years as he plays not far from where I live so I had the privilege to talk to him quite a lot".

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