'Local boy' Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke during Monday's press conference. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs

COUNTY ANTRIM – Local resident Darren Clarke highlights his top three contenders ahead of the start of The Open at Royal Portrush.

1. Frankie Molinari

I know he’s got to deal with the pressure of being the defending champion but I just think Portrush is perfect for his straight hitting. It’s a course for strategists, not bombers, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the gutsy Italian keeping his arms wrapped tightly around that precious Claret Jug.

2. Justin Rose

Another who should relish the premium that Portrush places on smart thinking. He’s been so close, so often in so many majors I just think he’s well overdue to claim another to go with his 2013 US Open. Finishing runner-up in the Open last year will surely provide a confidence boost.

3. Rickie Fowler

I was tempted to go with Tiger because I think he will have a lot of success with his ‘stinger’ two iron from the tee. But I’m going to go with another American who will come in a little under the radar but has shown he knows how to play links golf.

Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 13th during a practice round of The Open Championship. Photo: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 13th during a practice round of The Open Championship. Photo: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Two Dark Horses 1. Danny Willett

I think Danny’s low ball flight is perfect for this test, and I love his putting stroke — what I wouldn’t give to putt like him! He has been playing nicely in the last few weeks as well.

Two Dark Horses 2. Kevin Kisner

I played with this under-rated American a couple of weeks ago and he can flat-out do it. He can putt, too. I was seriously impressed. A lovely guy.

Who would you like to see win?

There’s a few. Rory and G-Mac for obvious reasons. I’d love to see Tiger win. But if you only give me one choice, it would have to be my old pal Lee Westwood. There’s no one in the game who deserves to win a major more than he does.

Places to Go in Portrush…

If you want the best pint of Guinness, you have to go to the Harbour Bar. To eat, head to the Ramore group of restaurants situated around it, which are all brilliant and all reasonably priced in comparison to large parts of the rest of the UK. And no, I don’t own any shares in the company, or get any free meals!

Place to visit...

It’s actually just outside Portrush but everyone ought to see the Giant’s Causeway at least once in their lives. Like the Dunluce Links, it has got the wow factor.

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