The Open 2017: What the players have said ahead of the Championships

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The eyes of the golfing world will turn to a small seaside town in the north west of England as the 146th Open Championships rolls into Royal Birkdale this week.

Ahead of tee-off on Thursday, the players have been discussing an array of topics: from skydiving with the Claret Jug to weddings and being recognised at Altrincham Market.

Here's what's been said:

Henrik Stenson

Defending champion Henrik Stenson has been pessimistic about his chances of retaining the Claret Jug.

"I think we're hoping for a lot in terms of what we saw this week," the world No. 7 said. "We certainly need to step that up quite a lot if we want to have anything to do with it next week.

"There's always a chance and I'm going to enjoy the week. You never know, it might be the only time we're defending champion at the Open Championship, so I might as well enjoy it."

But if he does retain the Claret Jug, Stenson has a rather extreme plan for it: "I've made an official promise that if I ever win the Claret Jug again, I'm going skydiving with it.

"And I don't know which is going to be harder, winning the Claret Jug again or skydiving afterwards, because that thought scares me a little bit. Won't stop me from trying to win it, though.''

Lee Westwood

Westwood hit the headlines this week after his split from longtime manager Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, but he has refused to comment on the split, saying that it was a "personal matter".

Despite the split, Westwood goes into the Open optimistic. "I'm still hitting the ball as good as I always have," said the Englishman.

"I'm 44, and you think a little bit differently as you get older, but hopefully I can think a bit more wisely and use a bit of cunning and guile on the golf course."

Justin Rose

Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose has been defending 2014 champion Rory McIlroy amid his recent poor form.

On the world No. 4, Rose said: "The one thing about Rory is, as soon as you question him, he'll do something special and turn it all around.

"He's missed a couple of cuts, but those might be the sort of competitive practices and runs that he needed just to start to get sharp again."

Rose has also been admiring Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.

"Roger is the sporting athlete I look up to and can try and model," he said.

"Everything he does is pretty much spot-on. The way he handles himself and the grace in which he plays the sport is incredible. Mentally, how he doesn't give much away, I think is a style that's well-suited to golf, too."

Padraig Harrington

Harrington has been reflecting on his 2008 Open triumph in the build-up to this year's Championships.

"The way I did it in 2008 is how you would you dream of winning a major as a 15-year-old kid.

"Everything went right. I did everything nice and beautiful, swung the club well, [played in the] last group, all the little things.

"It's dreaming, fairy-tale stuff to think it should go that way, but it did in 2008 for me.

"So clearly I think I'm a credible contender on any golf course, but bring me to a links golf course and it gives me an advantage for sure."

Nick Faldo

He may not be playing in the Championships this year, but Faldo celebrated his 60th birthday by pretending to steal back the Claret Jug that he won three times during his illustrious career. But it is the 1983 Open, which he did not win, that stands out in Faldo's mind.

"That Open in 1983 was amazing for me. I began the event double-bogey, double-bogey and still shot 68, which has to be the best unknown 68 of my entire career.

"Then with nine holes to play I blew up, and it wasn't long afterwards in a post-tournament briefing that I came to the conclusion that I needed to rebuild my swing to become a better golfer, one that could win the Open.

"My last victory in 1992 was the most draining. That was the one where I frittered away a four-shot lead and I looked at the leaderboard on the 14th green and was two back.

"I was blowing it in fine style and I would have been badly scarred if I'd lost that. I said to myself, 'You better play the best four holes of your career to rescue this' and I just about did."

Sergio Garcia

Masters champion Sergio Garcia may be getting married next week, but that has not stopped the Spaniard from firmly focusing on the Open.

"Angela [Garcia's soon-to-be wife] has been doing a great job of getting everything ready for the wedding, and obviously we're really excited for next week.

"But we have something that we're also extremely excited about this week, and we want to be here giving everything we have and hopefully with a chance on Sunday, it would be great.

Tommy Fleetwood

Fleetwood is a Royal Birkdale, local having grown up in the surrounding areas of Southport, Merseyside. The spotlight will be on the French Open champion this week, but he is not fazed by the pressure.

"I got recognised at Altrincham Market the other day, but there's nobody fainting in the street as I walk past -- I'm still waiting for those days to come.

"But it's nice to see things like my old school did. They had a massive banner with all the kids saying 'good luck' and I think it's just lovely.

"It's very touching, actually, seeing things like that, but the banners will be off in a couple of weeks so I best not get used to it too much."

"I've thought about winning The Open since I was 5 years old, so thinking about it another few days isn't going to make any difference to me. I don't feel extra pressure from it."

Ian Poulter

Poulter has only just scraped into the Open this year, earning his place in the final qualifying tournament. The Englishman seems pretty relieved:

"How would it feel to watch this one on TV? Pretty s---.

"Whatever happens this week, wherever I finish, it would have been horrible to sit there and watch on TV. I would have been miserable because I'd have been looking back at what happened nine years ago, thinking I wanted another go at it."