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Mark O'Meara hopes to play well this week and dwell on his many happy memories. (Redington/Getty Images)

O'Meara blog: 10 years later, Birkdale remains special

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In the first installation of his daily blog, Mark O'Meara explains what his goals are as the returning champion.

Editor's note: Mark O'Meara, who capped a career year in 1998 at Royal Birkdale when he added the Open Championship to his Masters title, is doing a daily blog for PGATOUR.com this week. The 51-year-old, who now plays the Champions Tour, took time out for this installment just before going to play a nine-hole practice round with Anthony Kim.

What a difference a week makes. About 10 days ago, I was up at Idaho Falls flyfishing. We spent four days there on the south fork of the Snake River, camping in a tent, and casting to our heart's content. It was great. That's kind of what my passion is right now.

I couldn't miss the Open Championship, though. We took off Sunday from Salt Lake at 9:55 a.m. and we flew to JFK, which is not exactly my favorite airport in the world. We had scheduled a five-hour layover to catch a 10 o'clock flight to Manchester and, unfortunately, our flight didn't take off until almost 2 o'clock this morning. So we had about nine hours in New York instead. I can tell you that rowing my boat up and down the Snake River is not quite like being on that runway at JFK. But I am here safe and sound and looking forward to the week.

This is a special place. Birkdale has been very, very kind to Mark O'Meara. First, I had the opportunity to win here in 1987 at the Lawrence Batley International, which was then a European Tour event, holing two 7-irons on Nos. 11 and 16 in the final round with Hank Haney on the bag. And then I came back in 1991 and played in the final group on Sunday with Ian Baker-Finch. I watched him put on an incredible display of golf on the front side as he went on to win the Open Championship.

And finally to come back in 1998 as the Masters champion, to play in the second to the final group on Sunday and wind up shooting even par and getting in the four-hole playoff with Brian Watts, which I won with my family here. That was a dream come true because the Claret Jug and this championship means everything to me. It's just a spectacular event and it is kind of the Open Championship of the world.

I finally arrived at Royal Birkdale about 3:15 this (Monday) afternoon, so it took me almost 24 hours to get here. A couple of people in the clubhouse welcomed me back. I was in there 10 years ago with the Claret Jug and celebrating with a lot of the R&A people and the members of Royal Birkdale.

I was over here about two weeks ago doing a couple of hospitality days for the R&A. So I got to play the course then and it's in really good condition. They've had a little bit wetter spring so the rough is a little bit deeper and a little bit thicker. It's going to be a tough test this week for sure.

When I was here two weeks ago, though, it was the first time I'd been back since I won in '98. So it does bring back a lot of memories about things that transpired that week. I think about the house where I stayed, the fact my family was here, everything. Obviously my family is not here with me this week because they're all grown up.

Still, I don't know what it is about links golf, but to me it's the greatest to come over here and play. I really look forward to it always. I don't think my expectations are overly high, though. I'd say I want to certainly make the cut and play well on the weekend and just see where I finish. At 51, I haven't really played all that great this year so it's been a little bit of a battle. But I'd like to play well this week and dwell on some of those memories of the past.

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