British Open 2016: Troon trumps Turnberry with American precedent

    Story highlights

    • Scotland's Royal Troon hosts 145th British Open
    • Last six winners have been American
    • Last three winners clinched sole major title at Troon
    • Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy head betting

    Troon, Scotland (CNN)If history is anything to go by, the winner of the British Open at Royal Troon this week will be American.

    It must be something in the Ayrshire air, or the inspiring views back west, across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran beyond.
      The less romantic notion is it's just a numbers game, but the last six winners on this venerable track south west of Glasgow in Scotland have hailed from across the Atlantic.
      Coincidence? Maybe, but no other British Open venue has seen such dominance. For four of those champions, it was their first major title. On the flip side, the Troon triumph was also their sole major and the pinnacle of their career. The other two were Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer.
      Royal Troon hosts the 2016 Open Championship.

      Pizza and beer

      Troon's last appearance on the rota in 2004 threw up one of the great Open Championship shocks as little-known Todd Hamilton downed South African Ernie Els in a playoff.
      Hamilton, a 38-year-old father of three, had taken eight attempts even to get his PGA Tour card. But when we learned his backstory, of multiple wins yielding bags of yen on the Japanese circuit, it made more sense.
      In 1997, two-time Tour winner Justin Leonard triumphed and celebrated with pizza and beer at the side of the 17th green.
      Eight years earlier, a reluctant Mark Calcavecchia was persuaded to travel to Scotland by his wife, who was expecting their first child. The 29-year-old ended up beating Australian pair Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a playoff. "How is my name going to fit on that?" he said on receiving the Claret Jug.
      Honorary Scotsman Watson clinched the fourth of five Open titles at Troon in 1982, while the combustible Tom Weiskopf -- known as the "Towering inferno" -- led from start to finish in 1973, and Palmer -- known as "The King" -- won his second straight Open there in 1962.
      Even the defending British Open champion is American -- Zach Johnson waded through the deluge to win at the home of golf, St. Andrews, last year.
      Troon, then, can claim the upper hand over nearby Turnberry, owned by Donald Trump. It already has an American precedent.
      Texan Jordan Spieth is searching for the third leg of a career grand slam.


      Of the current American crop, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson will garner most of the headlines.
      World No. 3 Spieth was fourth last year in his bid for a third straight major title, and is still looking to avenge that Masters collapse at Augusta in April when he squandered a five-shot lead with nine holes to play. He's won since, and has the patience to plot his way around a tight, strategic links course.
      "I love this style of golf," Spieth told reporters. "I crave to have that trophy in my possession at some point, and to reach a third leg of the grand slam this would be a fantastic achievement and a life-long goal."
      Dustin Johnson is golf's man of the moment after his breakthrough major title at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June.
      The big-hitting 32-year-old is now world No. " and has links pedigree after a second at a tempestuous Royal St George's in 2011. He almost won the U.S. Open at the linksy Chambers Bay in 2015, but for a three-putt on the final green to gift Spieth the title.
      With Tiger Woods missing his third straight major and still unsure of when or if he will return to golf after multiple back surgeries, Phil Mickelson will carry the can for the older generation.
      But the popular left-hander hasn't won since his Open triumph at Muirfield in 2013, and the only other 46-year-old to win the Open was Old Tom Morris back in 1867.
      World No.1 Jason Day was devastated to miss last year's playoff.
      Looking beyond America, world No. 1 Jason Day of Australia was devastated when he left his putt short to make the playoff 12 months ago, but it sparked a hot streak that included his first major weeks later at the U.S. PGA.
      The 28-year-old has won three times this year and has formed a close friendship with Woods, who is likely to reprise his advisor role on the other end of the phone.
      "Coming so close last year was definitely a motivational factor in that I would love to hold the Claret Jug and be able to put my name down in history with the best that have ever played the game," he said at Troon.
      Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is another keen to make up for missed opportunities after he was forced to sit out the defense of his title last year with an ankle injury from a soccer kickabout.
      McIlroy missed the 2015 Open with an ankle injury from a soccer kickabout.
      But McIlroy is something of an Open enigma. When conditions suit he can be devastating. His wire-to-wire victory at Hoylake in 2014 -- the third of four major titles to date -- and individual rounds such as an opening 63 at a benign St. Andrews in 2010 stand out.
      But he was blown off course the following day with a round of 80 in a fierce gale, and complained at Royal St. George's in 2011 that he preferred more clement climes.
      McIlroy's last major title came at the 2014 U.S. PGA and he missed the cut at last month's U.S. Open. For a player with an eye on the history books, he will feel the clock ticking.
      "Winning majors is not easy," he said. "To miss last year was very disappointing. I feel like when I play my best golf, if not the favorite I'm one of the favorites."
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      Australia's Adam Scott has finished in the top 10 for the last four years, stretching back to his runner-up spot behind Els in 2012, when he squandered a four-shot lead with four to play. He broke his major duck at the Masters the following year, and as a multiple winner this season is another likely to feature prominently.
      Spain's Sergio Garcia seems to be a perennial fixture high on Open leaderboards, with nine top-10 finishes, including two seconds, in 19 appearances. The 36-year-old won his first PGA Tour event for four years this May and is a lively prospect at his "favorite" major.
      With the latest withdrawals of Spieth and Johnson from the Olympics dealt with earlier in the week, and a potential PR disaster averted by Troon's recent vote to allow women members, the stage is set for another glorious chapter in the British Open's 145-year history. Albeit one possibly played out in wind and rain if the forecast is anything to go by.
      So having battled the Scottish summer weather, a world-class field and four trips around treacherous Troon and its pernicious Postage Stamp eighth hole, the Champion Golfer of the Year will be handed that famous old jug and made £1,175,000 richer.
      One clue to his identity could be the whereabouts of actor Will Ferrell. Having dinner with a group of American players during last year's Open, the Anchorman star reportedly said he had only been to two golf majors -- the 2007 Masters and St. Andrews 2015.
      The champion both times? Zach Johnson.