Nick Faldo has admitted that he still feels relieved that he managed to avoid “blowing a major” at Muirfield.
The Englishman was recalling the 1992 Open Championship at the East Lothian course, where he triumphed for a third and final time in the game’s oldest major.
That remains the last occasion a player from south of the Border claimed the Claret Jug, with the likes of Justin Rose, Paul Casey and local lad Tommy Fleetwood aiming to bridge a 25-year gap in the event’s 146th staging at Royal Birkdale on 20-23 July.
Faldo, who’d also won at Muirfield in 1987, was three shots clear of the field at halfway after opening rounds of 66 and 64.
He then stretched his advantage to four following a 69 on the third day before almost seeing all his good work undone in the final round.
“Yeah, it was,” replied the 59-year-old to being asked if that had been the most shattered he’d ever felt at the end of a major.
“I had a four-shot lead and then I frittered it all away. When I looked at the leaderboard on the 14th green I’m now two back.
“That was going to be the major that I had absolutely blown and I would probably have been scarred from it.”
In the end, he got the job done by a shot from American John Cook after producing some quality shots when it mattered most over the closing stretch.
“I said, ‘right, you’d better play the best four holes of your life’ - and I just about did,” he added, speaking from Florida in a teleconference to promote this year’s event.
“The 5-iron I hit on 15 was one of the best knock-down 5-irons ever and a drive and a 4-iron I hit up 17 was absolutely spot on, best I could do.
“The 3-iron at 18 probably stands as my best shot ever, because I needed a 4 to win and I took the paint right off the flag.
“I worked hard for that one and it’s a nice feeling to say, ‘wow, I hit three great iron shots’ as I managed to claw it back.”
Olympic champion Justin Rose is set to make his first appearance as a professional on Northern Irish soil.
It will come in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club from 6-9 July.
Rose’s first appearance in the event in seven years probably means he is unlilely to play in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links the following week.
“I haven’t played the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for a while so I’m excited about going back,” said the Englishman.
“With Rory’s involvement the last couple of years the event has gone from strength to strength and being part of the Rolex Series will give it an even bigger boost.
“It’s obviously great preparation for The Open Championship. I think it’s very good to get some links golf under your belt before The Open.
“Playing the Scottish Open (he won at Royal Aberdeen in 2014) the week before is a great idea and also playing two weeks before is great because you can have a week before to fine tune.
“The fact that we have these options running into The Open is fantastic and they are top quality events which will hopefully attract not just the top European players, but maybe some players from across the pond in the USA as well.”
Spectator viewing platforms look set to become part of the Open Championship landscape, as a feature first introduced at St Andrews in 2015 is expanded for this year’s event at Royal Birkdale.
The platforms are aimed at giving fans following certain groups a better chance of seeing the action as they move around the course, rather than having to stand in queues for grandstands.
For the 146th Open Championship, five such platforms will be located around the Southport course as it stages the world’s oldest major for a 10th time.
“The viewing platforms add a couple of thousand (vantage points) to the 14,500-15,000 grandstand seating that will be available,” said Michael Wells, the R&A’s director of championships - stagings, at a press briefing for the event.
It will mark the 21st year that kids are admitted free, with more than 300,000 youngsters having now taken advantage of that.
In another bid to make the event more appealling to a younger audience, a youth ticket, which costs £35, has been extended to people up to 25.
A “twilight ticket”, which was introduced for the first time at Royal Troon last year and offers entry from 4pm, is being repeated in Lancashire, where another strong audience is anticipated.
“This is traditionally one of our strongest venues and this is one of the fastest so far in terms of advance ticket sales,” reported Mike Woodcock, the R&A’s head of corporate communications.
“We are optimistic than the attendance for the week will be more than 200,000.”
As for the course, only minor changes have been made since Padraig Harrington made a successful defence of the Claret Jug in 2008. New tees have been built at both the 11th and 16th to provide better options in certain weather conditions while the green at the 17th has had its contours “softened” in the wake of some criticism the last time around.
Tributes will be paid at the event on 20-23 July to Arnold Palmer, both on the basis that it will be the first Open Championship since he passed away and also the fact he won the first of two Claret Jugs at Royal Birkdale in 1961.
Clarke Lutton and Jack Doherty both broke par in the opening round of the MENA Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic.
The Scottish duo carded matching one-under 71s to sit five shots off the lead, held by four players at Tower Links in the UAE.
Three Englishmen - Daniel Owen, Max Williams and Paul Dwyer - set the pace in the 54-hole event along with Spaniard Francisco Perez.