Phil fires his driver

In a little under 18 hours, golf's third major, The Open Championship will kick off at Royal Birkdale. I will be attempting to watch every minute of the telecast. Be sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Stenson's triumph

Last year produced one of the greatest final round duels in the history of The Open. Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson treated fans to a spectacular display of golf. Stenson and Mickelson traded clutch putts and birdies from the first hole and the seesaw tilt eventually sided with Stenson, who shot a 7-under 63 to win by two over Mickelson and his final-round 65. The duel will go down as one of the greatest final rounds in major championship history.

The course

This year will be the 10th time Royal Birkdale hosts The Open. Over the years, the course has yielded a premier group of winners. Peter Thomson won two of his five Opens at Birkdale; other winners include Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Ian Baker Finch, Mark O'Meara and Padraig Harrington.

The course is a par 70 that stretches to 7,156 yards and has historically been one of the toughest in the Open rota. The last time it hosted, Harrington won with a final score of 3 over. This week, Birkdale is playing firm and fast, which should limit the advantage of driver. The par 5’s come late in the round, forcing players to hang on for dear life until the 15th. For more on the course check out Tron Carter's review on No Laying Up's website.

Storylines

The weather and the draw
I spoke with a multiple major winner last month who remarked that The Open is the easiest major to win. The reasoning behind this claim is the unpredictable weather and the potential for a poor draw. This can eliminate half the field, like it did last year at Troon. After the first two rounds, no player from the early-late wave was inside the top 14. Here's a look at the weather forecast for the week.

The majorless
First-time major winners have won the past seven major championships. Despite the recent trend, plenty of big names are still hunting for their first major triumph. The headliners of this crew are Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm, each enter The Open simmering. Fowler has been in contention in both majors this season and notched a T3 and T9 in his last two starts.

Matsuyama comes into Birkdale fresh off his best major finish, a T2 at the U.S. Open. Matsuyama now owns four top-five finishes in majors and has made three of four cuts at The Open.  Since the U.S. Open, Matsuyama has teed it up once, finishing T14 at the Irish Open.

Jon Rahm has ascended to 7th in the world rankings after turning pro a little over a year ago. Rahm dismantled a strong field at the Irish Open, winning by seven shots and showing his game travels.

A player who is garnering a great deal of betting action is Tommy Fleetwood. Fleetwood finished 4th at the U.S. Open and has followed up his brilliant performance with a win and two other top 10's. On top of the good form, Fleetwood is also a local, growing up a few minutes from Royal Birkdale.

Age and experience
The Open tends to favor the long in the tooth. Of the past six champions, only Rory McIlroy was in his 20's. Links golf lends itself to patient players with immense shotmaking skills. Some names that pop under this criteria would be Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.

Peak Phil
Will Gray reported on Wednesday that Phil Mickelson would be sporting an unusual setup. Phil is dropping his driver and opting to carry a "hot" 3-wood, a driving 3-iron and a regular one and a 64-degree wedge. No driver and two 3-irons? Never change Phil.

A preview pod

The 3-man weave got fired up on Monday night with No Laying Up's Tron Carter and Skratch's D.J. Piehowski. We batted around Bryson DeChambeau's win, Royal Birkdale, Rory's struggles and our picks. Listen to the podcast on our websiteiTunes or Stitcher and if you enjoy please rate and leave a review.

Paulie’s Picks

Paulie is valuing iron play heavily this week at Royal Birkdale. He has you covered for all of your fantasy leagues, check out who he likes here.

Also if you missed our longshots article from Monday here are 8 to look at.

Coverage

Golf Channel and NBC has you covered this week with an unprecedented 50 hours of live coverage. Here are the times (all Eastern) and details:

Thursday: 1:30 am - 4 pm - Golf Channel
Friday: 1:30 am - 4 pm - Golf Channel
Saturday:  4:30-7 am - Golf Channel 7am-3pm - NBC
Sunday: 4-7am - Golf Channel 7am-2pm - NBC

Field and tee times

More Open Coverage

Brendan Porath dives into why he thinks the Open is the best major.

Adam Sarson gives his thoughts on Bryson's win and the state of golf heading into The Open.

The rest of the golf world

Africa Hot
The PGA Tour players who didn't earn a spot in The Open are in Auburn, Alabama, for the Barbasol Championship. Temperatures and humidity are always near 100 for this affair. The Barbasol offers a valuable opportunity to earn FedExCup Points and secure a card for '17-'18 or a spot in the Web Tour Finals. Full PGA Tour Preview

The land of cattle
The Web Tour is in Omaha this week for the Pinnacle Bank Championship. For the tour of PGA Tour hopefuls, only six events remain to move up the money list and earn a PGA Tour card. The top 25 will earn their cards while the top 75 will get a spot in Web Tour finals, which offers players another opportunity at a card with strong play over the four-event series. Check out the Web's money list here.

The LPGA heads to Ohio for the Marathon Classic.

Featured Tweet

Open Championship preview with Mike Tirico

Soly hosts the legendary Mike Tirico to talk about his career in the booth and this year's Open Championship. Listen to the podcast on NLU's websiteiTunesand Stitcher and if you enjoy leave a review!