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The list of Open champions at Royal Lytham is impressive _ David Duval and Tom Lehman, both formerly No. 1 in the world, won the last two times. The rest of the winners showcased in the brick clubhouse are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Then again, trying to figure out the next winner isn’t that simple.

Next to the 206 bunkers, the number getting the most attention at this major is 15 _ the number of players who have won the last 15 majors. An even greater sign of parity is that the last nine major champions had never won a major before.

The streak could go to 16 if the betting favorite _ Woods _ were to win his fourth claret jug and get back on track in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. Or the 16th different major champion could be No. 1 or No. 3 in the world ranking. Those guys would be Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, both from England playing on home soil, both trying to capture their first major title.

Along with the hazards are the elements, which tend to play a big role in links golf. This week, the forecast has been a mystery.

Carl Pettersson wasn’t planning to come to the course on Wednesday because the forecast was for an 80 percent chance of heavy rain. This was supposed to be the worst of the bad weather. He showed up wearing sunglasses.

The Royal & Ancient puts out an update three times a day on the weather, and the only thing that can be trusted is the small print at the bottom: “This forecast may be amended at any time.” Don’t hold your breath, but rain is supposed to clear overnight and leave mostly dry conditions until some clouds arrive on Sunday.

Then again, the rain already has left its mark with incredibly thick rough some 10 yards off the fairway.

“We always say with the rough, we leave it to nature,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “And nature this year has given us the thick stuff.”

One player not getting much attention this week is Rory McIlroy, who went from the high of reaching No. 1 earlier this year to missing three straight cuts. At 23, this will be his first Open at Lytham, yet he played more than a dozen times on this course during his amateur days.

He is aggressive by nature, but McIlroy sounds like he knows where to pick his spots.

“You’re going to have to be very smart off the tees here and just sort of plot your way around, just to navigate your way through all these fairway bunkers,” McIlroy said. “If you can do that _ put your ball in the fairway _ you do have chances to be aggressive going into some of the greens.

“As I said, the whole key this week will just be trying to drive it on the fairway.”