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Jul 16, 2008 at 10:51pm IST

Tiger's absence opens up British Open field

New Delhi: With no threat from Tiger Woods, there are plenty of contenders for the British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club near Liverpool this year.

Tiger is at home with an injury and that has left an open field to fight for the third major of the golfing calendar starting on Thursday.

Last year Padraig Harrignton of Ireland lived a dream by winning the British Open after a pulsating play-off battle with Sergio Garcia of Spain.

But this week his defence of the crown at the historic Royal Birkdale course will have little to do with memory and everything to do with performance.

"It obviously is a distraction for me competing in the 2008 Open. So I have to in some way manage myself to focus on 2008 and not necessarily focus on being the defending champion," says Harrington.

And the man who missed out by a whisker last year is seeking inspiration to cross the final hurdle from his country's recent sporting exploits.

"With the Spanish football team winning the Euro Cup and Nadal winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon, I am just trying to keep up with my fellow countrymen," Garcia says.

The absence of Tiger has meant quite a few players in the field now believe they could be holding the famous Claret Jug on Sunday. Phil Mickleson has been No. 2 to Tiger for much of his professional career and is confident that this could be his week.

"I am working hard to get my game ready for this week and I have practiced hard. I have developed a good game plan for this event and I am excited to compete against whoever is in the field," he says.

So on Sunday it will be clear who will overcome the strong winds and unpredictable opponents to clinch the title.

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