Organisers of golf’s 2017 Open Championship have said the tournament is already one of its fastest selling and hope to reach more than 200,000 ticket sales.

The tournament is being hosted at the Royal Birkdale course in Southport from July 20-23.

Some 173,134 tickets were sold last year as fans watched Henrik Stenson seal victory at Royal Troon in South Ayrshire.

Golf’s governing authority the R&A said if projections are right, this year’s attendance will be a significant increase on 2016.

Mike Woodcock, the R&A’s director of communications, said: “Birkdale has traditionally been one of the strongest venues and the tickets have been selling very fast for this year.

“It’s been one of the fastest-selling Opens we’ve had. We’re certainly optimistic it will be more than 200,000, even though it’s early in the process.”

The course is hoping to welcome more spectators than when it last held the Open in 2008. A number of upgrades and expansions mean the stands should be able to hold up to 16,000 spectators at a time. There will also be five viewing platforms added to increase the capacity to 20,000 and provide fans with the ability to see more of the course from one spot.