Previewing the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool
It’s finally arrived, the 151st Open Championship, and this year’s edition of many golf fans’ favorite major promises to be a classic.
Located 10 miles from Liverpool on the Wirral Peninsular, Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake, as it’s affectionately known (named after the local town), has seen significant development since Rory McIlroy’s famous last major victory in 2014.
The Open routing is quite different from the regular member’s layout, with holes 1 and 2 usually played as the 17th and 18th. While the 3rd hole at The Open is the 1st for the members. Among the extensive development work carried out for this championship, the course has moved from a Par 72 to a Par 71, playing 7,300+ yards. The 10th hole, previously a Par 5, has been downgraded to a 507-yard Par 4.
It will be fascinating to see how the changes play out this time around. The most significant and publicized change is to the 17th. The short par 3 (formerly the 15th) that plays around 130 yards, has been flipped to create an entirely new green on a mound, backed by the River Dee estuary. Dangers include steep runoffs in each direction, and penal bunkers waiting below. The new direction allows for shots to play into the prevailing wind, demanding a test of skill, ball flight control, and precision. A true links examination.
It seems quite a deliberate decision to make such a challenging short Par 3s the 17th hole, and therefore 71st of a Major. Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, host the PGA in 2021, includes an iconic par 3 17th with a carry over water to a well-protected green. The island green on The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is perhaps the most famous of all. One thing is for certain, this tournament won’t be decided until the leader has completed the 71st hole.
Rarely in the history of professional golf have we witnessed so much strength in depth in the men’s game. With standings on the European and US Ryder Cup qualifications still wide open, choosing a winner may be a tall order. From a European perspective, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm remain the flagbearers and continue a fascinating 3-way tussle at the top of the game with Scottie Scheffler. Beyond the favorites, Robert (Bob) McIntyre’s second-place finish at the Genesis Scottish Open showed his caliber and a return to form in brutal links conditions. His fairway metal on the 72nd hole at the Renaissance was one of the most memorable shots played in recent years, certainly a match for McIlroy’s epic 2 iron that followed shortly after.
Tommy Fleetwood has been a model of consistency recently, and Tyrell Hatton remains in the world’s top 20. Talented ‘relative’ newcomers to the top of the game include the Højgaard twins, Yannik Paul, Adrian Meronk and Sep Straka, who will all be pushing for a good week. Veteran Padraig Harrington is an outside pick for the Ryder Cup, not to mention the form major performer, Viktor Hovland.
From a US perspective, Rickie Fowler’s return to form is great news for the game, and the strength in depth remains from the formidable Ryder Cup team of 2021. Jordan Speith’s stats prove he is the king of links, while Dustin Johnson could be a perfect match for a course that suits his strong long-iron play. With 14 Americans in the OWGR Top 20, the US contingent will be confident of challenging for the title.
Let’s not forget Cam Smith, the reigning champion golfer of the year after his epic victory at St Andrews, will be looking to retain the Claret Jug for a further year.
One thing is for certain, Hoylake is a venue where the cream rises to the top. The past two winners, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are evidence of that, while Boby Jones’ name is on the list of prestigious winners from past generations.
The most underrated golf destination in the world?
Premier Golf clients at the 151st Open have been enjoying a week of world-class golf in the run-up to the start of the championship, with rounds at Open Rota venues Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St Annes, supported by two more great links, Hillside and Formby.
This got us thinking, with Southport & Ainsdale, West Lancashire, and Wallasey all within the same region, is this short stretch of linksland on the western English coast the best golf destination in the world? If not the best, it certainly has to be the most underrated.