Open 2015: Jordan Spieth targets historic Open win at St Andrews

By Ben DirsBBC Sport at St Andrews
Andrew Cotter's aerial guide to St Andrews
144th Open Championship
Venue: St Andrews Dates: 16-19 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, 5 live sports extra, Red Button and Connected TVs from 09:00 BST, Radio 5 live from 10:00 and the BBC Sport website from 06:30.

Tournament favourite Jordan Spieth says he fears no-one at the 144th Open Championship, which gets under way at St Andrews on Thursday.

The American has won the Masters and US Open this year and remains on course to become the first golfer to complete a calendar Grand Slam of all four majors.

The 21-year-old's odds of winning a first Open shortened when defending champion Rory McIlroy withdrew injured.

"I don't feel intimidated by anybody," said Spieth.

"Whoever is up at the top of the leaderboard, I want to knock them off."

Key tee times on Thursday
08:33 Ernie Els (SA), Brandt Snedeker (US), Tom Watson (US)09:33 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Dustin Johnson (US), Jordan Spieth (US)
09:55 Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Jason Day (Aus), Tiger Woods (US)14:45 Rickie Fowler (US), Justin Rose, Nick Faldo
Click for full tee times and BBC coverage times

Spieth's fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, Australian Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson of Sweden are all expected to contend this week.

Englishman Justin Rose, world number eight and a former US Open champion, is the best hope of a British winner, while South African Louis Oosthuizen, who won the last time the Open was played at St Andrews in 2010, could feature again.

The Scottish course hosts the tournament for the 29th time and play gets under way at 06:32 BST on Thursday.

Spieth plays down Woods comparisons

Spieth beat Tom Gillis in a play-off to win the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Sunday. On Saturday he recorded a 61, his lowest round as a professional.

In his last 20 starts, Spieth has won six times, had 11 top-three and 14 top-10 finishes. He would replace Northern Irishman McIlroy at the top of the world rankings if he lifts the Claret Jug on Sunday.

Chasing Hogan's record
Spieth is seeking to become just the second man - after Ben Hogan in 1953 - to win the first three majors of the year and set up the prospect of a Grand Slam of titles at the PGA Championship in August.

Spieth, who has never played a competitive round at St Andrews, made light of his late arrival, having only flown in on Monday.

"Coming over earlier certainly would have helped," said Spieth, who is aiming to join Ben Hogan, who completed the feat in 1953, as the only man to win the Masters, the US Open and the Open in the same year.

"But I liked the fact that I could go somewhere, play hard and win a PGA Tour event in preparation.

Open 2015: Great champions win at St Andrews

"I have a golf simulator at my house and I played the Old Course with some buddies. But it's a lot easier when the only breeze is from the air conditioner."

Spieth also said being compared to 14-time major winner Tiger Woods - a three-time Open champion, including two at St Andrews - was "unfair".

American Woods has not won a major since 2008 and is currently ranked 241st in the world, but Spieth said his achievements are "at a completely different level to anything anyone playing right now has seen".

He added: "When people ask me about those kind of parallels I try to shake it off."

When Tiger dominated
Tiger Woods in 2002 was the last golfer prior to Spieth to win the Masters and the US Open in the same year.

But Woods believes his experience of playing the Old Course will be invaluable, especially if the wind blows as hard as is predicted.

"This is my fifth Open at St Andrews and I've seen a lot of different winds," said the 39-year-old, who finished joint 32nd in his last tournament, the Greenbrier Classic, a fortnight ago.

"You can see the golf course on a simulator and that's fantastic. But playing St Andrews is about understanding how to play the golf course in various winds."

Fowler fancies St Andrews chances

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler comes in to The Open in good form after winning the Scottish Open on Sunday

World number five Fowler comes into the tournament with plenty of links golf under his belt.

The 26-year-old, who also won the Players Championship at Sawgrass in May, believes he has the game to thrive at St Andrews, where high winds are forecast for the first three days and rain for Friday and Saturday.

"It's going to be a tough challenge this week, especially if we get some rough weather," said Fowler, who finished joint second behind McIlroy at Hoylake last year and joint 14th at St Andrews in 2010.

"I'm very comfortable on links courses - visualising shots, being creative - and St Andrews is one of my favourites."

Big-hitting Johnson ready to strike

St Andrews, which is expected to attract up to 200,000 fans this week, has recently favoured big-hitting players and few hit the ball further than Johnson.

However, there are question marks over his ability to cope with pressure, the 31-year-old having missed a golden opportunity to win the US Open last month and also blown victory chances in other majors.

Johnson three-putted the final hole at Chambers Bay to hand the second major of the year to Spieth but says he is encouraged rather than demoralised by his near misses, which also include the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 and the Open at Royal St George's in 2011.

The world number four said each experience "gets me closer to winning a major", adding: "It gives me the confidence to know I have what it takes to win."

Will Rose follow in Faldo's footsteps?

Rose finished joint fourth on his Open debut as an amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998 but has not made the top 10 since, missing the cut on five occasions.

But the 35-year-old, who finished 74th in Aberdeen last week, believes he has the game to become the first English winner of the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992.

1990 Open my finest moment - Faldo

Rose said he "hasn't put his finger on" why he has failed to play better at the Open". He will play with Faldo and Fowler in the first two rounds.

"I won the Scottish Open last year in windy conditions so I can play links golf. I think the fans would certainly love to see a home winner but I probably have to use their energy in a better way."

Faldo's haul of six majors includes three Open titles, but the 57-year-old said "even his rust is rusty" before his final appearance in the tournament.

Watson to roll back the years
Five-time winner Tom Watson, 65, will play in the Open for the last time this year - 40 years after the American won on his debut at Carnoustie.

Time for Casey to stake his case

The resurgent Paul Casey is Britain's next highest-ranked player after Rose, at 24, and the Englishman has lost two play-offs this year on the PGA Tour.

Casey reached third in the world in 2009, but following a snowboarding injury in 2011 he tumbled down the rankings, even falling out of the top 100.

But the 37-year-old can draw inspiration from his third-placed finish behind Oosthuizen at St Andrews in 2010 and says he is hungrier than ever for success.

"Now that I've knocked on the door and not opened it, I feel slightly unfulfilled," said Casey, who has played exclusively in the United States this season.

"I'm pretty focused this week. I'm not here just to make up the numbers."

Weather forecast

Weather at St Andrews
Dry but mostly cloudy for much of the day on Thursday