A Troon test of character


Royal Troon is not a place for the faint-hearted. Winning here takes nerve, patience and no short amount of skill.

Reigning Open champion Zach Johnson - whose 2015 success came at a St Andrews course that is no less forgiving - said this year's victor would need to "have everything".

Anything less will not be enough; the course will win.

The winds that blow in off the South Ayrshire coast serve as an unrelenting reminder that this is links golf at its best. Or worst. A player's take on that might depend on his scorecard.

Some big names will fail to find answers to the myriad of questions that a course like Troon throws up. Some will find themselves on a roll and somehow halted in their tracks by a setback they never saw coming. But whatever else happens, we know one thing for certain - someone is going to lift that Claret Jug.

It may be the case that Troon has no respect for form, but Dustin Johnson - fresh from his U.S. Open triumph - will take some stopping.

His big hitting will not provide the same advantage as elsewhere, but the South Carolinian has so much more to his game, enough to tame even the wildest courses.

World number one Jason Day and fellow major winner Jordan Spieth will be nursing the pain of last year's marginal failures, when the duo missed out on a play-off by a single stroke.

Rory McIlroy, of course, is always a threat, with an Open success under his belt already.

But it was Australian Day who captured the magnitude of the event when he spoke on Monday of his affection for a tournament he had failed to make any real impact on until 12 months ago.

"This is pretty special," he said with a smile. "The greats have all held the trophy, the Claret Jug. To be able to hold that once in my career, it would be very pleasing and satisfying. 

"Every year I start out, I get excited for all the majors. I get excited to be able to play the Open Championship, not only because of the fans itself, but because of how challenging the golf course is and the weather.

"You have to somehow adapt your game to the weather and the golf course and really plot yourself around these golf courses.

"That's the most satisfying thing that you can get out of being able to beat the best in the world on some of the most challenging golf courses that we don't usually get to play.

"I'd be over the moon if I could hold the Claret Jug one day."

That is no overstatement, either. Zach Johnson cradled that piece of silverware like a father would a child, falling asleep with it in his arms on the flight home.

When that wind picks up and the rain comes - and it will - there might be cause for the players to pause and wonder what this is all for.

But that is one question Troon will ask of them that they can answer - it is for the glory of being an Open champion. What more motivation do you need?