Jordan Spieth relishing Carnoustie test and other talking points ahead of the Open Championship

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Jordan Spieth will be bidding to defend his Open title on Thursday as the third major championship of the year gets underway at Carnoustie.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Can Spieth become the first back-to-back winner since 2008?

Padraig Harrington was the last player to successfully defend his Open title, with a four-shot victory at Royal Birkdale back in 2008.

But Spieth’s form has been something of a mixed bag, with a third place finish at the Masters, but also missing four cuts in 16 starts this season, including at the US Open when he fired a miserable nine-over par 149.

While a repeat of last year’s heroics in Southport might seem too much to ask, the Texan certainly has the class to mount a challenge for his fourth major.

Can US dominance of the majors be broken?

Brooks Koepka’s victory in the US Open means American players currently hold all four major titles, with Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas holding the Masters, the Open and the PGA Championship trophies respectively.

American players’ strong hold on the Open Championship is also tight, winning three out of the last five championships.

Based on current form, it looks difficult to see America golf’s dominance toppled in Scotland this weekend and at majors any time soon.

Will there be an English player in with a shout of winning?

While Darren Clarke, Stenson and McIlroy have all lifted the Open title in recent years, only Matthew Southgate and McIlroy finished inside the top-10 in 2017.

The struggle of English players continuing at Carnoustie look unlikely though, with Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood all showing consistent form this year.

Rose, in particular, appears to be the front runner to challenge the Americans at the top of the leaderboard, with some glittering rounds over the past seven months.

The Englishman has recorded three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 12 starts, including a win at Fort Worth Invitational.

While Fleetwood finished second at the US Open, a result that is sure to give him confidence around the sweeping greens at Carnoustie.

What condition is the course in?

After the USGA came in for serious criticism over their approach in the recent US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the R&A will be determined to avoid similar mistakes at Carnoustie.

Bad weather and a severe course set-up made the 1999 Open one of the most challenging in history, with Peter Lawrie winning in a famous play-off.

The 156-strong field finished the week with 3,746 over par – something the organisers will not want a repeat of in the east coast of Scotland this week.

With the lack of rainfall in the UK over the past six weeks, the course looks baked but the greens are pure, making for fast and firm conditions.

What next for Tiger Woods?

The American has not played in the Open Championship since missing the cut in 2015 – with the last of his three Open titles coming 12 years ago at Royal Liverpool.

Since returning to action after undergoing back surgery last April, Woods has recorded three top-five and three top-15 finishes, including a tie for fourth at Quicken Loans National earlier this month.

Winning a fourth title would be a fairytale way to seal one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and recent form suggests the 42-year-old could well be in contention for a first major since 2008.

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