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British Open golf: Jon Rahm favored to win second straight major

British Open golf: Jon Rahm favored to win second straight major
Tournament favorite Jon Rahm (pictured) is grouped with Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen for the first two rounds of the 2021 British Open, which starts Thursday in Kent, England. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

July 15 (UPI) -- Spain's Jon Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is favored to win his second-consecutive major championship at the 2021 British Open this weekend in Kent, England.

The fourth and final major of the PGA Tour season runs Thursday through Sunday at Royal St. George's Golf Club. The 149th British Open airs on Golf Channel and NBC and streams on Peacock.

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"It would be pretty incredible to win both Opens in one year," Rahm told reporters Tuesday. "It would be amazing. You have a sense of relief after winning your first major.

"The fact you are expected to win means nothing other than you are playing good golf."

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Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are among the other favorites to hoist the Claret Jug.

The 2021 British Open will be the first major golf tournament to allow full crowds since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with up to 32,000 fans allowed to attend per day.

With a win Sunday, Rahm would join Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones as the only players to win the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year. Jones did it twice (1926 and 1930). Woods won both titles in 2000.

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Rahm, the No. 2 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, won two tournaments in 2020 before he claimed his first major June 20 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. He edged Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke to claim the U.S. Open Championship trophy.

Rahm leaned on clutch putts and precise bunker shots to navigate Torrey Pines under ideal weather conditions. Temperatures are expected to hover around the upper 70s this weekend in Kent. No rain is forecast, but the tournament is known for dramatic weather shifts.

Golfers expect to battle the British Open's trademark hills, bumps, bunkers, large greens and winds off the seaside dunes of southeast England's Sandwich Bay. The rolling course will create uneven lies on the fairways throughout the tournament.

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"You'll have a bit more variety of golf," Rahm said. "That's the unique part about it. The everchanging wind, weather conditions and state of the golf course makes it such a great week.

"There is also a little bit of luck involved."

McIlroy noted that the 7,189-yard course played lush, with its dimpled fairways, was not providing as much bounce as he expected.

"As the days go on, with a little wind and sunshine, by the weekend it should be perfect," McIlroy told reporters Tuesday. "It should play the way it should play."

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McIlroy missed the third-round cut at the 2019 British Open, but his resume at the tournament includes three Top 5 finishes in his last four appearances. He won the 2014 British Open.

Spieth won the 2017 British Open and has never missed a cut in seven appearances at the major. His British Open resume features three Top 10 finishes.

Rahm leads the PGA Tour with 11 Top 10 finishes this season, followed by Spieth (eight). Schauffele, Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau and Corey Conners each have seven Top 10 finishes in 2021.

Rahm jumped up from No. 3 with his latest run and sits just behind Johnson in the Official World Golf Ranking. Thomas, Morikawa, Schauffele, DeChambeau, Cantlay, Koepka, Patrick Reed and Tyrrell Hatton also rank inside the Top 10.

"I need to continue to play well if I want to stay [at No. 1]," Johnson told reporters Wednesday. "Obviously Jon has been play really well lately. I need to step up my game."

Morikawa leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained from tee to green, followed by Rahm and Koepka. Oosthuizen leads the field in strokes gained from putting.

The winner of this week's tournament will take home $2.07 million of the $11.5 million prize purse. Shane Lowry, who won in 2019, is the defending champion. The 2020 British Open was canceled due to the pandemic.

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The 156-player field for the 2021 British Open will drop to the Top 70 scores and ties through the first two rounds for Saturday's third round.

No. 18 Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, and 2015 British Open champion Zach Johnson withdrew from the tournament due to positive COVID-19 test results.

Notable groups, tee times

Thursday

Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Garrick Higgo at 3:03 a.m. EDT

Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Branden Grace at 4:25 a.m. EDT

Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen at 4:58 a.m. EDT

Dustin Johnson, Will Zalatoris, Justin Rose at 5:20 a.m. EDT

Scottie Scheffler, Sergio Garcia, Yuxin Lin at 5:31 a.m. EDT

Harris English, Erik Van Rooyen, Chez Reavie at 5:42 a.m. EDT

Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Adam Hadwin at 7:53 a.m. EDT

Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ryan Fox at 8:04 a.m. EDT

Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Sebastian Munoz at 8:26 a.m. EDT

Phil Mickelson, Tyrrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner at 9:48 a.m. EDT

Xander Schauffele, Robert MacIntyre, Rickie Fowler at 9:49 a.m. EDT

Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Scott at 10:10 a.m. EDT

Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith at 10:21 a.m. EDT

How to watch (times are EDT)

Who: 156-player PGA Tour field

What: 2021 British Open

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When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Royal St. George's Golf Club in Kent, England

TV: First round from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday on Golf Channel; Second round from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday on Golf Channel; Third round from 5 to 7 a.m. Saturday on Golf Channel and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC; Final round from 4 to 7 a.m. Sunday on Golf Channel and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday on NBC

Stream on Peacock: First round from 1 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday; Second round from 1:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday; Third round from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; Final round from 5 a.m. to noon Sunday

Jon Rahm wins golf's U.S. Open, first major title

Jon Rahm holds the trophy Sunday after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

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