ST ANDREWS - St Andrews hosts the 150th Open Championship from today (Thursday) with Rory McIlroy starting as the favourite for the Claret Jug while a determined Tiger Woods hopes to make an impact at a venue where he has triumphed twice before.

Record crowds for the week of 290 000 are expected on Scotland’s east coast for this landmark edition of the world’s oldest golf tournament, which comes to the Old Course for the 30th time. With fine weather expected to continue for much of the week, it is shaping up to be a fitting way to mark a historic British Open, even if the sport continues to be rocked by the fallout caused by the breakaway LIV Series.

Players who left to join the Saudi-backed tour were allowed to take part by Open organisers, just as they were at last month’s US Open despite both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour moving to ban the rebels. That means four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and former Open champion Phil Mickelson will all tee off on Thursday. McIlroy, though, is aiming to end an eight-year wait to add to his four major titles and the Northern Irishman is the favourite in the eyes of bookmakers. “I think it’s the Holy Grail of our sport. So not a lot of people are going to get that opportunity to achieve that, but that’s what winning an Open at St Andrews is,” McIlroy said on Tuesday. The world number two won the 2014 Open at Hoylake but missed the chance to defend his title in St Andrews a year later after injuring an ankle playing football. “I can’t go in here thinking that this might be my time. I just have to go out and play a really good tournament,” he added.