With the end of major golf season upon us, the PGA Tour heads to Royal Liverpool for the 151st Open Championship this weekend. Back at Hoylake for the first time since Rory McIlroy won his first Claret Jug in 2014, the 34-year-old will look to build off his strong performance at this event a year ago. He carded three straight rounds in the 60s, followed by a final round 70 to finish third behind Cameron Young and the eventual winner Cameron Smith. Joining him, world number one Scottie Scheffler will look to add a second major to his name. The 27-year-old is continuing to assemble one of the finest golf stretches in recent memory. He has posted finishes of T-10, T-2, and 3rd in the other three majors this season.
Originally designed by Robert Chambers, George Morris, and Harry Colt more than 150 years ago, Royal Liverpool will be a different-looking venue than the last time the venue hosted this event a decade ago. The course recently underwent significant changes to its layout. Among them, the 17th hole was converted from a par four into a brand new par three. Given the name the Little Eye Hole in honour of the small island in Dee Estuary, it measures just 136 yards from the tee while featuring a raised green surrounded by deep bunkers and fall-off areas, meaning it should play a critical factor in determining who wins the tournament. In addition to this, players will also have to navigate internal out-of-bounds lines on both the third and 18th holes.
The final major of the 2023 PGA Tour season, The Open Championship will host a 156-man field with 49 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings set to tee it up. Entering Thursday as the betting favorite to capture the fifth major of his career, Mcilroy heads into the tournament in solid form after capturing the Scottish Open a week ago. Along with this, Brooks Koepka will also look to continue his strong run at major championships. A winner at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May, the 33-year-old has a significant track record at the Open Championship over the last few years with four top 10s in his previous six starts. Rounding out the field, Smith will look to become the first player to win the Clarett Jug in back-to-back years since Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008.
With no finer opportunity to snap his nine-year major drought, Mcilroy aims to win at Royal Liverpool for the second time. In good form, he has carded six straight top-ten finishes, including a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open and a victory at the Scottish Open a week ago. The current world number two still possesses the game to conquer the links course. He ranks first on the Tour in driving distance (327.6), allowing him to take the difficult pot bunkers out of play. Moreover, the reigning Fed Ex Cup winner has gained 16.41 strokes on his approach play over his past 12 rounds while also being a positive short-game player in each of his past seven starts.
A winner at the Memorial Tournament in June, Hovland has put together a steady run at majors. After missing the 2022 U.S. Open cut, the 25-year-old has placed ninth or better in each of his last four starts, including a fourth-place finish at St. Andrews and a runner-up at the PGA. Championship. One of the best long-iron players in the field, the Norwegian is 11th in the field in strokes gained tee to green (1.326) and 12th in proximity to the hole average (34' 11"). Furthermore, after struggling around the greens early on in his career, the Oklahoma State University product has become a much better putter by picking up (0.122) shots with his flat stick through 54 rounds this season.
Looking to become the first Englishman to win The Open since 1992, Fleetwood will have the hometown crowd behind him at Hoylake after growing up just 20 miles up the coast in nearby Southport. The six-time European Tour winner has risen to the occasion at the biggest events over his 13-year pro career. He has racked up 11 top 20s and six top 5s over his last 25 appearances at Majors, including a second-place finish behind Shane Lowry at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Set to play in a group with Scheffler and Adam Scott; he should be among the final groups on Sunday if the 32-year-old can get off to a fast start on Thursday and Friday morning.
The best major golfer of this generation, Koepka, has continued to shine at the big events throughout the 2023 season. A winner at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the Florida native edged out Hovland and Scheffler by two shots. He also held the solo lead heading into the final round of the Masters before being unable to fend off the eventual champion in, John Rahm. Still searching for the first Clarett Jug of his career as he tries to complete the third leg of the grand slam, the former world number one has faired well at this tournament in the past with finishes of T-6 at Royal St Georges in 2021 and T-4 at Royal Portrush in 2019.
Johnson began the 2023 season appearing like his days of contending in majors were behind him. He finished T-48 at the Masters Tournament and T-55 at the PGA Championship. However, following a top ten at the U.S. Open, the 39-year-old put together one of his best ball-striking weeks of the past few seasons by picking up 7.49 strokes from tee to green. Furthermore, the South Carolina native has also been lighting up the LIV Tour recently. Johnson has three top 10s in his last four starts, including a Cedar Ridge Country Club victory. One of the longest and most accurate players off the tee in the field, he offers up significant value at +3000.