Royal Liverpool will determine the fourth and final major champion of the 2023 season. The links at Hoylake will welcome 49 of the top 50 players in the OWGR from the field of 156.
Staging The Open for just the third time since 1967, this will be the third edition since 2006. Past champions on this historic ground include Bobby Jones, Peter Thomson, and Roberto De Vincenzo. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the only two winners this century.
The final test of the major schedule will include the constant breeze from the Irish Sea, the weathered fescue, and the dunes of the Wirral peninsula.
Top of the Board
Rory McIlroy (15/2) won last week at The Renaissance Club. The Ulsterman hoisted the trophy the last time Royal Liverpool hosted the event. Being the favorite, or in this case, co-favorite, won’t bother him a bit. The club of players to win the week before a major championship is a small one. He’s a member, winning the WGC-Bridgestone in late July in 2014 before outlasting the field at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. Yep, nine years ago, but everything old is new again.
Scottie Scheffler (15/2) shares the top spot as he continues to pound the top five. Regardless of strength of field, event, or course, the Texan shows up weekly. The streak of T12 or better has reached 18 consecutive events he’s entered. His streak of T5 or better has reached seven-consecutive events after sharing third last week. Bettors backing him to hit the top 10 weekly should be enjoying their returns, er, weekly.
The last time Spain reigned on the plains, or links, was 1988, when Seve Ballesteros won his third Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Jon Rahm (12/1), already halfway to the career grand slam, has never shied away from the biggest of stages. The Masters winner from earlier this season will look to add another top-10 payday after T10 at the U.S. Open. Well-rested entering this week, he will look to improve on his only top 10, T3, in 2021. He’s the only player in the top five not entering on red-hot form.
Cameron Smith (16/1) matched The Open Championship tournament scoring record at the Home of Golf last year. The Claret Jug left the Home of Golf with the Australian after he posted 268 (-20) to match Henrik Stenson’s lowest winning total. A quiet Masters (T34) performance refocused his spring. Picking up T9 at the PGA Championship, he added another top-10 paycheque with a solo fourth at the U.S. Open. Padraig Harrington (2007-08) and Tiger Woods (2005, plus 2006 at Royal Liverpool) are the only players to successfully defend The Open Championship this century.
Adding to the lumber at the top of the order, Brooks Koepka (20/1) doesn’t need any help in unlocking the secrets of major golf championships. The five-time major champion added his most recent piece of hardware last May, winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. If Hoylake provides the stern challenge most are expecting, Koepka’s value increases for me. He won’t be bothered by the weather, the moment or any of his peers on the leaderboard.
The previous two editions this century have produced two of the better-winning totals in the history of the event. Firm and fast in 2006 and 2014, Mother Nature sat in the grandstand and observed two of the best in the last 30 years pick the place apart.
The weather is ALWAYS an angle in this event. The Irish Sea, where the River Dee and River Mersey meet around the Wirral peninsula, blows a steady if not unspectacular breeze. All competitors will play the Par-71, new for the 2023 event, from the first tee all four days. The course reaches almost 7,400 yards in the third edition since 1967.
Pot bunkers with rivets. Gorse bushes. Blind shots. Dunes. Cambered fairways. Dog legs. Internal out-of-bounds.
Controlling the distance and trajectory off uneven lies into uneven winds is the challenge from the fairway. Missing in the right places. Grinding out pars. Taking advantage of scoring opportunities. Riding a wee bit of luck.
The winner takes home $3 million of the $16.5 million purse, plus 600 FedExCup points and the Claret Jug.
Others to Consider:
Rickie Fowler (22/1) has already broken the seal after his win at Detroit earlier this summer. His record here is T2, and he’s cashed 10 of 11 starts at the event. A noted wind player, he won’t mind any and all obstacles Mother Nature throws his way.
Jordan Spieth (30/1) has never missed the cut in nine visits across the pond. The 2017 winner has demonstrated plenty of creativity in this part of the world. The Texan can handle the wind, the elements, and the pressure.
Tony Finau (55/1) is a reach here, but a calculated one. Never missing the weekend from six tries, his best result was a podium finish at Royal Portrush in hardly ideal weather. Flying completely under the radar, his last top 10 was a victory in Mexico, holding off Jon Rahm on Sunday. Watch out for the quiet ones.
SG: Tee to Green
The links of Hoylake will be affected by the persistent winds off the Irish Sea. Riveted bunkers, all redone for 2023, are strategically placed in landing zones off the tee and protecting the greens. Gorse and other rough off the fairways will temper decisions on attacking the greens. With doglegs framed by trouble on both sides, including on some holes with in-course out-of-bounds, risk and reward will need to be managed. The test this week is a serious one from tee to green.
Quirky bounces into the bunkers. Breezes that turn into gusts. Great swings result in bad lies. Welcome to links golf! Grinding through the perceived unfairness is half of the battle. Pitching out of the gorse, scrambling to get up and down from bunkers, and lagging putts in the breeze will keep big numbers off the cards keeping players in contention. There will be no feeling of “catch-up” when pars are written down on the scorecard this week.
A full bag is required to conquer all 72 holes of championship golf. There is plenty of evidence from September of 2022 thru last week’s Scottish Open to identify who has brought the goods this season. The cream usually rises to the top at the best venues playing against the deepest fields. Click on the link above if you do not see who you are looking for this week.
Robert MacIntyre (60/1) sits just outside the OWGR top 50 at No. 54. All it took to beat him last week was a birdie-birdie finish from one of the greatest of the generation. The Scotsman cashed in the top 10 in his first two Open Championships and was T34 last year at St Andrews.
Adam Scott (66/1) and his storied career has experienced just about everything. A bit of breeze, rain or chill in the air isn’t going to bother him. Finishing in the top 10 in each of the first two editions this century, the Aussie will have the tools and nous to factor again.
Ryan Fox (90/1) can give it a knock with any and everybody. His red-hot 2022 has cooled into a consistent pattern of making cuts in 2023. Signing for T12 in Scotland last week was his best in five months.
Matthew Jordan (200/1) grew up here and knows it inside and out. Better chuck a quid here for Top 10, Top 20, and Top 40 just in case!