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VIDEO: Wirral takes centre stage as the 'Friendly Open' gets underway
Buy this photo Wirral takes centre stage as the 'Friendly Open' gets underway. Photo: Paul Heaps
RAYS of sunshine and blue skies were the perfect backdrop as thousands flocked to Hoylake today as the build up to the Open Championship got into full swing.
Eight years have passed since the prestigious tournament was last held at Royal Liverpool, a championship which saw Tiger Woods lift the Claret Jug in an emotion-filled victory.
Stars from around the world have been on course this week taking part in the first two practice days ahead of the start of the tournament on Thursday.
More than 200,000 people are expected to descend on the borough to witness what is sure to be an exciting part of the golfing calendar.
There was a noticeable buzz on course on Tuesday as 14-time major winner Woods answered questions from the world’s media after spending the morning practicing his putting.
Visitors both young and old enjoyed taking in the atmosphere both on and off the course, with Hoylake’s streets filled with bunting and traders enjoying the increasing excitement.
Those competing in the Open will be hoping for success at the 18th.
Golfing legends took time out of their practice rounds to stop and chat with fans, with defending Open champion Phil Mickelson spending 20 minutes signing caps, programmes and other Open-related memorabilia.
Organisers the R&A initially predicted crowds would be slightly down on those witnessed when the tournament was last held in Hoylake but early-estimates put the attendance for the first practice day on Monday higher than it was in 2006.
While the sun was out in full force today, visitors may still need their waterproofs as the forecast suggests the possibility of heavy showers towards the end of the week.
Spectators at Royal Liverpool.
Whatever the weather though, the 143rd Open Championship is sure to be an exciting, thrilling and unique affair, offering golfing fans both young and old alike the chance to see their favourite stars fight for their chance to lift the Claret Jug.
Many will be hoping for a repeat of 2006 when Woods claimed his third Claret Jug in a particularly poignant victory that followed the death of his father.
Back then Tiger said Hoylake was the “friendliest Open he has ever played in.”
Tiger Woods is hoping to return to his winning ways at the Open.
And speaking ahead of the start of the 143rd Open, he said he was delighted be back on Wirral soil.
He said: "It feels great to come back to Hoylake and to this event. It meant a lot to me in my life at the time and to come back, obviously there have been a couple of changes they have made to the course since 2006."
Asked what he feels would be an acceptable finish this week, Woods simply replied: "First".
He will not have too long a wait to make his competitive return in the tournament and will start his first round at 9:04am on Thursday alongside Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.
Golfers practice next to Royal Liverpool's club house.
After missing the first two majors of the year following back surgery, Woods said his injury made him appreciate his career and how fortunate he is to have had so much success in his 17 plus years at the top of his game.
He added: "I'm not quite at the level I think I can be at, but I'm pretty darn close."
Defending Open champion Phil Mickelson stopped to sign autographs.
Another golfer hoping to make his mark on Royal Liverpool this week is Birkenhead factory worker John Singleton.
The 30-year-old, from Moreton, qualified at Hillside after a four-man play-off when Yorkshire amateur Nick March couldn’t match par at the second extra hole.
Spectactors gather to have their caps and programmes signed.
John, who told the Globe he was delighted to have secured a place in the competition – which takes place just five minutes from his home – will tee off alongside USA’s Peter Uihlein and Scotland’s Marc Warren at 10.32am.
Speaking earlier this month, John – a member of Eastham Lodge Golf Club who trains at Prenton Driving Range – said: "There's no pressure on me, I'm just going to go and soak up the atmosphere and really enjoy the support of my family."
Wirral golfer John Singleton, pictured above right, on the course on Monday.
John, who works five days a week at resin factory AEV in Birkenhead, started playing golf when he was 10 and turned professional in February.
Looking forward to tee-ing off on the fairway at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake later this month, he continued "I never imagined that five months after turning pro I'd be playing in the Open. It's very surreal.
"My place in the Open shows that all the hard work I've done over the years has paid off, especially as I have a full time job too.”
Golf-mad Issac Nicodemou, aged three, takes a swing.
Are you attending the Open this week? Tweet Globe senior reporter Emma Rigby at @emmajanerigby with your pictures and the best will be featured on our website.
- For more Open news, visit our dedicated section here.
Video courtesy of PA Videowire.