143rd Open Championship
Royal Liverpool Golf Club
Hoylake, Wirral, Merseyside, England
Yards: 7,312 via theopen.com
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bentgrass, fescue, Poa annua; 5,500 square feet on average.
Rough: Deep fescue, ryegrass and Bentgrass
Water Hazards: 0
Course Architect: George Morris and Robert Chambers (1869)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson claimed his first Claret Jug as he ran rough shot with 66 on Sunday to win by three shots.
Dates: July 17-20
Notes: Hoylake is only hosting The Open for the second time since 1967. Tiger Woods won here in 2006 by firing 18-under-par 270 in near drought conditions minus any wind.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 34 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer now has a play pal as Justin Rose joins the European effort. Cabrera will fly the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 34 events so far in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose (33) are the prime time players to cash winner’s checks.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) and Argentine Angel Cabrera (44) are the only two crusty veterans to claim victory this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
Since 2000, eight of the 14 champions have had a blue passport from the USA.
After a stretch of first-time major winners dominating over the last five years, three of the last four majors have been previous winners. Phil Mickelson (multiple) won the 2013 Open, Bubba Watson 2014 Masters (second Masters) and Martin Kaymer (second major, 2010 PGA) claimed those trophies. Only Jason Dufner at the 2013 PGA Championship was a first-timer.
This is only the second time that Hoylake has hosted The Open since 1967. Tiger Woods won here in 2006.
Paul Lawrie began the final round in 1999 10 shots behind Jan Van de Velde before defeating him in a playoff. Anything can happen if the wind blows this week.
Tiger Woods won the 2000 version by eight shots, the largest margin of victory since 1913.
Ben Curtis was the last player to win on his maiden voyage in 2003. Before that, it was Tom Watson in 1975. #rare
The lowest round recorded is 63 done by eight different players. Rory McIlroy was the last do it in 2010 at St. Andrews. Gamers might remember he followed that first round score with 80 on Friday. See, this has been going on for a while!
The oldest major champion in the modern era was Roberto de Vincenzo at 44 years and 93 days and he won at Hoylake. Stewart Cink prevented Tom Watson from taking over this record when he defeated him in a playoff in 2009 at Turnberry.
The youngest winner (modern era) was Seve Ballesteros in 1979 at the age of 22.
The last amateur to win The Open was Bobby Jones in 1930. He also won at Hoylake.
Royal Liverpool has hosted 11 previous Open Championships.
2006: Tiger Woods
1967: Roberto de Vicenzo
1956: Peter Thomson
1947: Fred Daly
1936: Alf Padgham
1930: Bobby Jones (am)
1924: Walter Hagen
1913: John Henry Taylor
1907: Arnaud Massy
1902: Sandy Herd
1897: Harold Hilton (am)
Padraig Harrington is the last player to defend the championship as he won in 2007 at Carnoustie and 2008 at Royal Birkdale. Interestingly enough, Woods had won the two years before that with a victory at St. Andrews in 2005 and the 2006 championship at Royal Liverpool. Bizarre.
The only player to defend their title in their 40s was Old Tom Morris.
Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson (three in a row), Bobby Locke, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, James Braid, Harry Vardon, John Henry Taylor, Bob Ferguson (three in a row), Jamie Anderson (three in a row), Tom Morris, Junior (four in a row) and Old Tom Morris are the others who have defended successfully. #Royalty
Only 10 players have won a TOUR event the week before a major and have gone on to win said major the following week. Phil Mickelson was the last to accomplish this last year by winning the Scottish Open and The Open.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14.
The only two players in the top 50 OWGR who are not playing this week are Americans Steve Stricker and Charles Howell III.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
St. Andrews has hosted The Open 27 times, the most of any course in the rotation. This will be the 12th Open at Royal Liverpool.
Inside the Ropes
Since Hoylake is hosting only its second championship since 1967, course history is irrelevant this week. In 2006 Tiger Woods destroyed Royal Liverpool by bagging his driver and using long irons off the tee. He hit driver once on the week and finished 18-under. His strategy was simple: avoid the bunkers at all costs. He did. He won by three shots and missed The Open tournament record by one shot (19-under, Nick Faldo, 1990, St. Andrews).
The major defenses of seaside links courses are usually wind, weather and rough and NONE of that was a factor in 2006. Woods’ strategy worked because the weather was hot and dry and the wind was non-existent. The ball was running for days in the fairway. The rough was crispy and anything but penal and without wind, the course was exposed to near-record scoring.
This year, from the photos I have seen on Twitter, Royal Liverpool is quite lush and green. I hardly recognize it from 2006 and that’s why I feel course history can be thrown out this week. Also, the course has been altered plenty since the last championship. The last time 95 sand traps were in play. This time there will be just 82 as 13 have been removed and replaced mainly will swales.
The course layout remains the same but there have been multiple changes to the track. On No. 1, the rough on the left side of the fairway has been replaced by “broken ground”. Hole No. 2 has added a new tee which adds 14 more yards. Hole No. 4 has relocated bunkers left and right of the fairway to make the driving more difficult. Remember, the first four holes in 2006 all played OVER par for the week. That’s a tough start. The final major change on the front side is at No. 7 as a new tee and 27 extra yards have been added.
The back side has seen Nos. 11 and 13 add swales beside the green to toughen the approach shots. Nos. 12 and 14, the two hardest holes from 2006, will remain tough as No. 14 adds a new bunker on the right side of the fairway to punish errant tee shots. Gee, thanks. The 17th has also added fairway bunkers to put a premium on hitting the fairway. The final hole, the par five 18th, has added a new swale on the back left to repel approach shots that are not up to quality.
Royal Liverpool begins with a bang but there are some scoring chances before getting to Nos. 12 and 14. The finishing holes will be exciting as well as No. 15 is the shortest hole on the course, only 161 yards, and played under-par in 2006. This is followed by first of two par fives in the final three holes as No. 16 should be another scoring chance because the prevailing wind at the player’s back. The fourth-hardest hole in 2006 was No. 17 and it doesn’t sound like it will play any easier in 2014. Playing into the prevailing wind, No. 17 has also added fairway bunkers that will just make it that much more difficult to score. Coming home is the second par five in the final three holes but birdies and eagles won’t be the order of the day. No. 18 was hardest of the four par fives in 2006 as OB right will be in the player’s minds. Players better take advantage of Nos. 15 and 16 because Nos. 17 and 18 are beasts.
This week I’m looking at players who have had successes at major championships, premium ball-strikers, weather players and grinders. The Open is the hardest to handicap because essentially eight different tournaments can possibly be played over four days. Morning waves and afternoon waves each day, because of the seaside links and weather, can change at the drop of a hat. It was probably at The Open where the phrase “luck of the draw” was originated. If a player is on the wrong side of the draw due to weather, it’s just plain unlucky. That’s why it’s plain difficult to project!