McIlroy's absence due to an ankle injury suffered during a football kick-about might have taken the sting out of the tournament in a different year, but St Andrews is buzzing, and you can thank Jordan Spieth for that.
While McIlroy continues his rehabilitation, Spieth will be ripping up St Andrew as he bids for his third major title – and he's the overwhelming favourite to do so.
The 21-year-old's skill, charm and humility has captured the imagination of the golfing world, and he continues to defy the hype by notching up win after win. Can he do it again this week?
Of the eight rounds of major golf that have been played this year, Spieth has been the leader or has held a share of the lead in seven. Considering that the Dallas native arrives in Scotland on the back of a victory at the John Deere Classic last week, there is a very real possibility that Spieth will join Ben Hogan as the only men to win the Masters, U.S. Open and the Open in the same calendar year.
There is one rather large obstacle for Spieth to overcome though – he has never before played tournament golf at St Andrews. Spieth will have done as much research as he can, and will have got the most out of his practice rounds, but playing the Old Course with the pressure of a major is a different beast to anything he will have encountered.
Having faltered at the 18th at the U.S. Open with a three-putt that handed Spieth victory, Dustin Johnson's road to redemption begins on a course that suits his long driving. Johnson has two top-ten finishes at the Open to his name, and finished in a tie for 14th when the Open was last played at St Andrews in 2010. Key to the American's charge will be whether he has vanquished any demons that may have surfaced after his near-miss at Chambers Bay.
Rickie Fowler heads into the tournament on the back of victory at the Scottish Open, and he certainly has the pedigree to make it two wins in a row. The 26-year-old's triumph last week took place at the Gullane Golf Club, which, like St Andrews, is a links course. Fowler finished at the top five in every major last year and finish alongside Johnson in a tie for 14th at the 2010 Open.
Then there is the European contingent of challengers.
Justin Rose looked good at the Scottish Open before imploding late on, but despite this you can bet on him being there or thereabouts this week. Henrik Stenson is still biding for a first major title, and is long overdue for one. The Swede finished third behind Louis Oosthuizen at the 2010 Open and has it in him to go all the way this time. Austrian Bernd Wiesberger is a long shot worth keeping an eye on.
Speaking of Oosthuizen, the South African is very much in the running to claim his second Open title. Having finished in a tie for second at Chambers Bay, the 29-year-old is primed for another major assault. Oosthuizen's compatriot, Branden Grace should also be challenging for honours, as a former winner of the Alfred Dunhill Challenge at St Andrews, he knows how to tame the Old Course.
Don't count Adam Scott out either. The Australian has finished in the top five in the last three Open Championships.
As for Tiger Woods… a player as good as Woods can never be written off, but the reality is that the former number one's game is not at a major-winning level. His tends to be mentioned as a contender out of respect rather than reality.
The Asian influence:
Asia's number one Hideki Matsuyama and Anirban Lahiri are expected to lead the charge for the Asian contingent. They're joined in the field by the Thai pair of Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and Liang Wen-chong of China. Other members of the Asian Tour who will be at St Andrews are Jonathan Moore, Rikard Karlberg, Scott Hend, David Lipsky and Marcus Fraser.