Golf: Tiger warns rivals to bring their A game

Spectators watch as US golfer Tiger Woods hits shots during a practice round ahead of the British...
Spectators watch as US golfer Tiger Woods hits shots during a practice round ahead of the British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, northern England. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
British Open favourite Tiger Woods has warned his challengers they'll need to be on their game from the get-go when the 141st championship gets under way today.

There will be no gentle introduction at Royal Lytham and St Annes' demanding links layouts, with players greeted on the opening hole by a daunting 205-yard par-3.

The hole is protected by seven greenside bunkers and a railway line to its right.

Any stray tee shots will be punished.

"Psychologically, it is different because you have to be on your game right away," Woods said.

"You can't just hit a ball in the fairway any distance you want. You have to hit the ball a precise number and that is different than what we experience from week in, week out."

Woods is hoping to get his hands on the famous Claret Jug for a fourth time, but he hasn't contended at the Open since winning at Hoylake in 2006.

His biggest threat is expected to come from Englishman Lee Westwood, who agrees with the 14-times major champion that Lytham, as ever, will provide the game's brightest stars with an arduous test.

"I'm sure there are some unplayable places in the rough. It's pretty thick and brutal," Westwood said.

"But if you don't go in it, then you don't have a problem with it.

"There might be times when it might be better to take your punishment and take a drop. Find somewhere to drop it and go back in line.

"But I think that's part of the game of golf. There should be penalties for hitting it off line."

Masters champion Bubba Watson says even leaving the driver in the bag offers no guarantees around the legendary Lancashire course, where pars are gold and birdies an even greater treasure.

"It's still about execution so you can hit iron and still hit a bad iron," Watson said.

"But around here it looks like we're going to hit a lot of irons off of tees, try to play safer, smarter, whatever you want to call it, and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.

"But I love it. I love coming over here. It's sad that it's one week out of the year to play links golf for us from the US.

"But it's fun. You can come over here and create shots, do shots that you don't normally do.

"You can hit head high, you can try to hit it high into the wind, you can try to draw it around bunkers, cut it around bunkers.

"So many different things you can do."

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