Is Tiger going to be there? Yes. Though he missed the cut at the Congressional his back didn't break. He'll tee it up at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Odds are that he won't be the favorite. Galleries, however, vote with their feet and while he has no Arnie's army of adoring throngs he'll probably have the biggest crowds owing to the curiosity factor to see if his game cools, igniting a fuse.
What are the chances of a repeat? Phil Mickelson won in sterling fashion in 2013 in a final round charge as formidable as lightening but this year he’s winless and is ranked 93rd. His best finish was a tie for 11th on June 5th at the St. Jude Classic, so he’s tepidly warm. He avers, however, that his playing in the Scottish Open before this year’s Open (like he did last year) will put him in a good frame of mind. He shot a 68 Thursday under tough conditions and a 73 Friday under easier ones. Golf...
This year the favorites for the Claret Jug and $720,000 pounds are: Martin Kaymer, who won the US Open by 8 shots. He also took the prestigious “fifth major” The Players Championship.
Adam Scott always seems to be in contention every Sunday on the back nine of any tournament he plays. He’s been number one world ranked for the past few weeks. Bubba Watson, holder of two Masters’ green jackets, has to be a threat although in five whacks he’s only made the top 25 once.
Tom Watson is the sentimental favorite. He's won this championship on five different courses. He's 104 years old. OK: 64. Rory McIlroy shot a course record 64 in the opening round of the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, topped by a 436 yard (wind assisted) drive on the (lucky) 13th hole. Oops. He shot a 78 on Friday...
For those that don’t know about golfing in England or Scotland (where the Open is usually held) the game is called links golf. For a duffer like me, what that means is that I can watch the ball from my drive roll into a pot bunker 50 yards away. And those bunkers riveted fronts are so steep, most of the time you’ll be hitting out sideways to get back on the fairway.
The courses are windswept, the trees are few, the bunkers (sand traps) are evil, the scenery ruggedly sparse. Take away the people - and the golf course, usually near a sea, under laid by sandy soil, looks lonely, and lovely.
Players and fans love this most traditional and oldest of the four majors. Only eight teed it up back in 1860. Willie Park, Sr. won. Now at the RLGC Hoylake gigantic grandstands - seating up to 7,000 - will adorn the 18th green. And 40,000 folks will be following their favorites daily. Not only are the galleries a concern but so are birds nesting habits! Don’t want to have a Dunlin bird done in. The village of Hoylake’s population when golf gawkers aren't dropping in to tromp around, numbered just under 11,000 in 2011
Let’s hope the pros bring their “A” games to start. Otherwise, the Victorian and Edwardian era homes that dot the right hand side of the first hole may find players playing through their living rooms.
And watch out for the rough stuff at Royal Liverpool. There’ll be more of that thick gnarly grass than there was in 2006. This course spots bunkers about 300 yards out left and right and sports long, narrow greens and small ones too – with lots of “movement.” And the mottled clouds, white, gray, and black - seem to touch the landscape.
And don’t get caught reveling in all that greenery on three. The dogleg right features an out-of-bounds ridge closer to the fairway than a too tight dress shirt is to the neck. The OB would be fair game on many an American course. Here too, the prevailing winds will nastily help blow your ball to the forbidden land.
Watch the pros wrestle with the decision to putt or chip should their shot roll off, or miss the greens. That’s a links course conundrum...
Another toughie will be the 6th hole. Though only 201 yards, this par three has lots of wind, rough, and enough pot bunkers, plus a false front, to stymie the best. Accuracy, and proper club selection off the tee, are musts.
What also bedevils the competitors is the gorse, the thick shrub-like vegetation that can ensnarl them should they drive left on the par five, fifth. Look for plenty of penalty drops, Listen for cursing and cussing. The tenth is a birdie possibility, par five. But if you hit it in the deep trap to the right of the green, you’re in deep doo-doo.
With two par fives in the last three holes those vying for contention will be scrambling for birdies. Risky golf will make for prayers, and great viewing.
Water woes on the left of holes 9 through 12, courtesy of the Welsh-English River Dee. Croaking courtesy of Natterjack toads
The Red Rocks Nursing Home denizens, with their two acres of grounds at the point of the Wirral Peninsula, are probably safe from errant shots that soar over the green on 12...
Craig Gilholm is the course manager. He hopes this year the course won’t be as dry as in 2006. It was sweltering that summer. He and his 10 staff are hands on. Craig doesn't sit in the office, hoping God takes care of things. He adds: “Nature’s nature...” and warns that a Hoylake wind can be wild and woolly
Just so you know, Tiger loves this course, 82 bunkers and all.
”Hoylake...golf as it was meant to be played” Tiger said.
And no matter who wins this course with its swales, rolls, levels and mounds, will have to avoid the out of bounds that runs up the whole right side of the par five 18th.
But any which way the winner shot maker does it, the Merseyside economy will, thanks to the Open, get a £75m shot in the arm.