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The Open - Golf: What makes links golf so special?

We are only a few weeks away from the fourth and final Major of 2022, with the world's best players soon heading to St Andrews in Scotland for The Open Championship.

Rory McIlroy's recent form should give him a decent chance of winning a second Claret Jug, but with so many world-class players making the trip to the iconic links course, it is a wide-open field with less than three weeks to go until the first ball is struck.

WhatThe Open Championship
WhereThe Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St Andrews, Scotland
WhenThursday 14th July - Sunday 17th July
How to watchSky Sports Golf

Rory McIlroy 8/1, Jon Rahm 11/1, Justin Thomas 14/1, Scottie Scheffler 14/1, Collin Morikawa 18/1

The Open Championship is the oldest golf tournament in the world and one of the most prestigious and unlike the other Majors, the Open is always played on a coastal links golf course, but what does the term "links" actually mean?

Links golf explained

Lovers of "links golf" often call it the purest form of golf, and players often find themselves battling against the elements.

The terrain is usually open with few if any trees and unlike other courses that have been built, the layout is normally shaped by nature.

Coastal sand dunes have little use for housing or farming, but the land is usually the perfect canvas for a golf course and the weather often plays a massive part in the final outcome, with the strength of the wind a crucial factor.

Links golf courses are known for their deep pot bunkers, while the rough can often be made up of bushes. Links courses usually drain very well, meaning players never typically have the excuse of the surface being unplayable.

In the last 18 months, there has been a fascination around Bryson DeChambeau's power off the tee, and even recently, McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick have added distance to improve their chances of victory.

That will not help them too much around St Andrews in July, though, and players often have to get creative in order to succeed on a links course.

Who to watch out for at The Open Championship?

With conditions as tough as they get, it takes a special player to handle the surroundings of a links golf course. Patience is also a skill that a winner will need, and there are several players towards the front of the market that have shown that in recent years.

Spain's Jon Rahm has a great record at links-style courses over the years. He has won the Irish Open on two occasions, while he often makes the trip to play in the Scottish Open.

Rahm finished tied third in The Open Championship last year; a tournament won by Collin Morikawa, who is 20/1 to defend his crown.

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American challenge looking strong

American Jordan Spieth is another who has showcased his skills on numerous links courses over the years. He won The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in 2017, while he finished second behind Morikawa in 2021.

On his last visit to St Andrews, Spieth finished with a share of fourth, and he should be there or thereabouts in July at odds of 22/1.

Xander Schauffele might have found his rhythm at the right time, with the American having won the Travelers Championship last weekend.

Schauffele has caught the eye in the past on links courses, but he would need to recover quickly after such a courageous battle last week.

The world number 15 is 22/1 to get his hands on his first Major, while Tony Finau could give punters a run for their money at 45/1.

The excitement is already building ahead of the final Major of the campaign, and there is still the John Deere Classic, Irish Open. Barbasol Championship and Scottish Open to come before the first tee-off.

Those wanting to pick a winner will need to pay attention to the form of those competing in Ireland and Scotland, with links golf guaranteed to put players through their paces across the next few weeks.

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