Stenson has lofty ambitions for Open defense

Defending champion Henrik Stenson has promised a rather unique celebration if he ever wins The Open again.Stenson won his first Major title at Royal Troon previous year, producing a record-breaking performance to come out on top in a sensational shoot-out with Phil Mickelson.Last year, Stenson fondly remember drinking out of the Claret Jug with loved ones following his first major triumph.Shedding the tag of “best player not to have won a major” should do wonders for the talented Spaniard, who has 10 top-10 finishes in the Open since 2001, including the last three years in succession.”It has seen a lot of hands and lot of people but it hasn’t been dropped to my knowledge”, he said.”And I don’t know which is going to be harder, winning the Claret Jug again or going sky-diving afterwards, because that thought scares me a little bit”.Hatton will be competing at The Open for the sixth time having not made a cut prior since last year’s edition.Although the 41-year-old missed the cut in this year’s U.S. Masters and U.S. Open, he is confident of performing well at Birkdale a week after playing in the Scottish Open, usually a good omen for him.It remains his best Open finish.The first tee shot will be hit at 0635 local time by American Mark O’Meara, who was the victor in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. He will no doubt be hoping that a trip back to England’s north- west will signal a return to the Major-winners’ circle.Local star Tommy Fleetwood is another outside contender.But, with the likes of Japan’s world number two Hideki Matsuyama looking a threat, can another first-time victor lift the Claret Jug in front of Birkdale’s distinctive white Art Deco clubhouse on Sunday evening?For his part, Spieth is aiming to bring an end to the streak of first-time major winners that started with Jason Day’s 2015 PGA Championship win and most recently saw Brooks Koepka win the US Open.This year’s Open Championship is about as open as they come.It’s not just Fleetwood, McIlroy and Stenson who could complete a headline-grabbing victory at Royal Birkdale, with several other blockbuster storylines in the offing.Johnson’s form has suffered a dip since he won three tournaments in succession earlier this season, including back-to-back World Golf Championship events, before a back injury forced him to withdraw from the Masters.England’s Justin Rose, who beat Stenson to the gold medal at Rio 2016, will be another challenger on a course located in the English seaside town on the where he placed fourth as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998.