By Andrew Both
(Reuters) - The British Open is the most exacting test of shotmaking among the four major championships, while at the same time offering more players a chance of winning than the other three, former PGA Tour winner and analyst Brandel Chamblee believes.
Competing in strong winds tests every facet of a player's game, Chamblee told Reuters, while the hard bounce of Open courses allows shorter hitters a better chance than on some of the longer, softer layouts at the American majors.
Royal Birkdale, where the 146th version of the championship starts next Thursday, is perhaps the fairest test on the Open rota, however, one that has never produced a lucky winner.
"It has the flattest fairways of any of the Open courses," Chamblee, who will be part of Golf Channel’s team for its 'Live from the Open' show from England, said.
"It's fair and you don’t hear any rumblings from the players. In general, Open championship golf demands the most out of players. You’ve got to be able to work the ball left-right, right-left, up, down, cope with cross-winds.
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"That’s why Sergio Garcia has had his most consistent major there. He works it easily (both ways)."
Like most links courses, wind is the best defense for Birkdale, a par-70 measuring 7,156-yards which Chamblee says is "long enough" to offer a decent test, although in an ideal world he would like all championship courses stretched much longer.
Questions hang over some of the big names heading to Birkdale. American Brooks Koepka has not played since winning the U.S. Open four weeks ago, and neither has world number one Dustin Johnson.
"I can’t wait to see Koepka come back,” said Chamblee. “What does he do for an encore?
“I hope Dustin has found his equilibrium after the birth of his child and injury at the Masters.”
Chamblee, though, thinks Spaniard Jon Rahm is the nominal favorite, a player with all the makings of greatness, while also expecting big things out of American Rickie Fowler and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.
"I can’t wait for this to get underway," said Chamblee.
"It’s not like Birkdale is easy but you’d like to see it blow a bit. Links golf is meant to be played with mother nature throwing spears."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)