Nothing beats armchair golf quite like the Open Championship with the early morning telecasts and travelogue component. We get hours of watching balls run forever on firm and fast fairways in cool, blustery conditions while being transported to another world. As for the players themselves, will the streak of over-40 winners continue for a fourth year in a row?
1. Will Tiger Be a Factor?
After his opening round 69, apparently so. This marks his 18th British Open appearance, but it’s also his 18th major since he last won one in 2008. The longer he goes without a victory, the harder it seems to be to get that 15th major and get back on track to hunt down the Golden Bear.
2. Reachable Par Fives
The quartet of Royal Liverpool’s par fives ranked as the four easiest holes during the 2006 Open. In order, those were the 577-yard 16th, the 532-yard 10th, 528-yard 5th, and the 551-yard 18th. The latter, however, has been altered somewhat significantly with new bunkers added to both sides of the green. Rory McIlroy has said that “birdies on two or three of those holes per round is a must to make any move on the leaderboard.”
3. The Bobby Jones Connection
The legendary Bobby Jones captured the second leg of his historic 1930 Grand Slam here with a two-stroke victory for his third Open Championship. He would go on to win the U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota and the U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania later that year to capture what was then considered the four majors. Jones remains the last Amateur to win The Open.
4. Feel the Beat
Rhythm and tempo are the hallmarks of every good golf swing. Those two traits also brought international attention to Liverpool, home to the Merseybeat sound, made famous in the early 1960s, and a group called The Beatles. Bands in the port city, like Gerry & The Pacemakers above, benefitted from the American ships that docked there, bringing with them the latest records and instruments.
5. Internal Out-of-Bounds (3rd and 18th holes)
The 426-yard par-four 3rd and the par-five 18th both feature internal out-of-bounds, about the layout's only flaw. What's normally the range area for members is now a corporate and spectator village that separates the two dogleg right holes. Players going for the 18th green in two actually have to hit over the OB.
6. Is it Hoylake or Royal Liverpool?
Both actually. The course is located in the town of Hoylake, just across the River Mersey from the city of Liverpool. Opened in 1869, it became Royal Liverpool just two years later.
7. Home Grown Pressure
Justin Rose shook a heavy burden off his back last year when he became the first Englishman to win a U.S. Open in 43 years, but winning The Open in front of the home crowd may just be harder. After his back-to-back wins at the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open, however, Rose is the betting favorite and could be the first Englishman to win at home since Tony Jacklin in 1969 at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
8. The Weather
What’s a British Open without some weather issues? No one wants a repeat of the cold hard rain that descended upon Muirfield in 2002, but Hoylake is a bit defenseless without a bit of a breeze like it was in the first round. Today's forecast calls for stronger winds, while Saturday's is for heavy rains before light winds and cloudy skies on Sunday.
9. Phil Mickelson's Chances
The last defending champion to repeat was Padraig Harrington in 2008, and only 15 have ever done it overall. Phil’s chances of doing that at Royal Liverpool? Not so good based on his form this season, which includes zero top-10 finishes in 15 events.
Get ready for plenty of Old Course mentions this weekend since it hosts The Open next year. No venue gets more reverential treatment than the famed layout in St. Andrews. And with the R&A voting on women members this September, expect plenty of attention on the first female member(s) next July.