So, with the World Cup over, it’s hard to know where our sporting entertainment will come for the rest of the summer. Well fear not, for the PGA tour has been in full swing since the beginning of the year and it is coming to England this weekend!
From Thursday 17th July to Sunday 20th July, the world’s top golfers will fight it out at Hoylake, known also as Liverpool Royal Golf Club. This is 143rd Open, making it the oldest of the four majors on the PGA tour, and the Claret Jug is up for grabs along with £975,000! This is the first time the Open has come to Hoylake since 2006 when it was won by Tiger Woods, in a rather emotional manner.
This is a different course though because the number of bunkers has increased to 82, therefore there is a lot more reliance on the golfers’ driving accuracy to avoid ventures into the sand as some of the holes have sharp bends and steep hills.
The last Englishman to win the Open was Nick Faldo in 1992
You would have thought us plucky Brits would benefit from our home advantage, especially given our unpredictable weather, but no. In fact, for the last 14 years, 8 of the Opens have been won by Americans and three of those were by Tiger Woods. The last Englishman to win the Open was Nick Faldo in 1992 and with the tournament more open than ever this year, there is more pressure on our men to deliver.
It can be very easy to get lost in golf coverage, as the cameras pan wildly from old men who haven’t put on enough sun-cream, to a seagull who managed to get in the way of a championship-winning shot. The weather is expected to peak and trough through the weekend as the wind slowly pushes clouds east from the Atlantic to bring in some rain: different weather every day, new opportunities for players to shine. So who are the ones to look out for?
The current number one in the rankings is 34-year-old Adam Scott. The Australian won the Masters last year in a hard-fought battle against Angel Cabrera and he has already had his fair share of disappointment. In 2012, leading 4 under par, he bogeyed at the last to lose by one to Ernie Els. The year after, he came third, missing out on second place by two shots. Despite this, he can take confidence from his recent form with a 299-yard drive, 63.7% drive accuracy and 1.741 putting accuracy, all important with the increased bunkers. Is this the year the man from down consolidates his position as the best in the world?
The holder of the Claret Jug might have something to say about that. Phil Mickleson turned professional in 1992 when Scott first picked up his clubs at 12 years old. Last year, Phil won his first ever Open at Muirfield and that was his fifth major. The US Open is the only thing preventing a career Grand Slam though, so one may be inclined to think his mind might be elsewhere in this competition. The stats certainly don’t help him: 292-yard drive, only 58.1% drive accuracy and a higher putting average at 1.776. There is no doubt Mickleson will contend for the title but it may not be an easy ride.
This week, Rory McIlroy said he was worried about his form going into the Open because he had a trend of performing badly in the first round. At the US Open in June, he only started on a +1 but then proceeded to score +4 in the third round- not as straightforward as you may think. Although he has a powerful drive, his accuracy may let him down as well as confidence. Don’t be surprised if he starts asking those Santander advert questions again.
It’s impossible to consider the Open this year without Bubba Watson, the 35-year old American who currently tops this year’s PGA earnings at $5,102,162! The highest Watson has ever finished in the Open is 23rd in 2012 but he now has two Masters on his shelf, one of which was won this year. He has the longest drive in the PGA with 314.1 yards this season but a drive accuracy of 61.7% and 1.720 putting average put him on the same level as Mickleson, McIlroy and Scott.
Andy Murray won the US Open in 2012 then Wimbledon in 2013… coincidence?!
The hopes of all Englishmen were shattered pretty early on in the World Cup (perhaps last December when the draw came out?) but we can now pin our hope on 33-year-old Justin Rose. Sitting at third in the rankings, Rose already has some success as he won the US Open last year and back in 1998, at the age of 17, he came 4th in the Open at Royal Birkdale. Just put yourself in the position of an extremely optimistic and patriotic supporter: Andy Murray won the US Open in 2012 then Wimbledon in 2013… coincidence?! With 59% drive accuracy and 1.755 putting average, he’ll have to work hard but he could put some spirit back into our sporting passion, just like Faldo in 1992.
Last but not least, there is Tiger Woods. He has only played in four tournaments this year in the PGA because of injury but he has now recovered, ready to take on this very special course. Woods won the Claret Jug consecutively in 2005 and 2006. 2006 was more emotional as it was his first major since his father passed away. However, he has failed to win a major since, and he will be ready for this challenge to get that 15th major. Woods has looked dangerous and the fates could be on his side this year, back on the Royal Liverpool course.
So there we have it. Hoylake will be the site for some surprises, good weather- and probably some people in chairs with not enough sun-cream whilst a bird causes some kind of controversy. But that’s not what the cameras are there for, they are there for a contest which could not be tighter between some of the best golfers in the world. Everyone has different reasons to win, whether it’s fulfilment or national expectation. The record score in the Open is -19, set by Tiger in 2000. Who knows? With the competition tighter than ever, things could get tasty!