Hoylake's deserved place on Open rota
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2014 The Open Championship | Preview | 15 Jul 2014
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, to the south and west of Liverpool, again gets the chance to host one of golf’s most significant events when it stages the 2014 Open Championship, the 12th occasion the layout has been considered for such an honour.
The tournament was last played at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club (often referred to as Hoylake because of its location) in 2006 (when Tiger Woods won his third Open Championship) 39 years after the previous occasion it was played there in 1967 when Argentinean Roberto Di Vicenzo was successful.
The logistics of the growing animal that was the Open Championship were deemed too great for the confines of Hoylake and the access to the links and so there would be that lengthy break until many of the issues were remedied and it returned in 2006. Now back on the regular rota of Open Championship courses, Royal Liverpool again proudly takes its place amongst the great layouts of British golf and Open Championship venues.
Originally built in 1869 on the site of the then Liverpool Hunt Club, Royal Liverpool received its Royal designation in 1871 due mainly to the amount of times one of the children of Queen Victoria played there.
Robert Chambers and George Morris of the famed Morris family built the golf course but in the early part of the 20th century, famed British golf course architect Harry Colt redesigned the layout with only relatively minor changes since.
Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones, along with Tiger Woods, are perhaps the most high profile winners of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool but Australia’s own Peter Thomson won the third of his five Open Championships there when he was successful in 1954.
The return of the Open Championship in 2006 heralded an acceptance by the R&A that Hoylake was a suitable venue not only for the quality of its layout but for its capacity to stage the monolith the Open was developing into and its successful return then will see it stage many more.
Tiger Woods’ victory in 2006 was dramatic for two reasons. He hardly used a driver all week on a golf course that was hard and fast and required a different mindset perhaps to that which had been the case in other Open Championship.
Woods was full of praise for the golf course despite his amazing score of 18 under par, which earned him a two shot victory over Chris Di Marco with another three shots back to Ernie Els.
“I think it’s a fantastic test, said Woods after his victory that year. “With the golf course being this fast, it lent itself to just amazing creativity. Granted, if you would have had easier pins I’m sure it would have gone lower. These are the most difficult pins I’ve ever seen at an Open Championship. And a couple of times you feel like if you hit a putt too hard you’ll actually putt it right off the green, and you never have that feeling at an Open. But this week it certainly was the case.
“And I think because the yardage played short, in some cases, because it was so fast, you hit 3 wood, driver, hitting it 380 yards down there, you’re going to have a lot of short irons in there. The only defense they had was pin locations and hard, dry conditions. And we couldn’t really go all that low.
The shot of the week that year was when Woods holed a four iron from the middle of the fairway at the 14th in round two.
The other significant factor that week was that both Woods and his nearest pursuer, Chris Di Marco, had both lost parents in recent months although Tiger’s loss gained greater exposure, especially when he went on to win. It was therefore an emotional time as the winner and runner-up fought to overcome the thoughts of those who had played such a key role in their upbringing.
Woods spoke of his personal loss and just how this win compared with other Open victories given the circumstances. “No doubt about it, this is the most special. “Absolutely no doubt about it. Basically to win your first tournament after my father had passed away, and for it to be a major championship, it makes it that much more special.
“And mom was watching, I’m sure she was bawling her eyes out, like she can. So it’s going to be an awful lot of fun for me to go back home and see mom and share this with her. I’ve had amazing support this week with Stevie and Elin and Hank and Steinie and everyone around and Keith. It’s been awfully nice to have the support that I’ve had.”
Di Vicenzo won with a score of ten under when he defeated Jack Nicklaus by two in 1967.
Interestingly, when Di Vicenzo won in 1967 he earned a first place cheque of £2,100 pounds. When Woods won in 2006, he won US$1,340,000 and in 2014 the winner’s cheque will total US$1,442,000, further evidence of just what this event has become.
This year’s event sees Woods back but there are many things different this year. The golf course will play a lot differently than was the case seven years ago, the firm and fiery conditions replaced by a much softer golf course and Woods is a long way from the form that saw him such a dominant figure at that time.
Woods had recorded two wins, a runner-up and a 3rd place in his events leading into the Open in 2006 and followed up his win up six consecutive victories but in 2014 things are considerably different.
Not having played since early March, Woods returned to tournament golf at the recent Quicken Loans event where he missed the cut, so the chances of a repeat performance of 2006 are seemingly very, very slim.
Adam Scott recorded his best finish in a major to that point when he finished 8th in this event in 2006 and along with his near misses at the Open in each of the past two years his chances appear good. He might have been better to have played the Scottish Open last week and could well be a little underdone but he is a serious chance in most majors he plays these days and could again contend.
Scott has not won in 2014 but there have been six top tens, the last three in succession.
Henrik Stenson has yet to win a major championship but as the world number two and a regular performer at the Open Championship including a runner-up and two 3rd place finishes he deserves serious consideration.
Perhaps surprisingly Justin Rose has not performed well at the Open Championship other than a 4th place as a 17 year old amateur in 1998. He is in arguably the best form in the game at present with victories in each of his last two starts and it may be that he can turn around his record in an event he would dearly like to add to his US Open title.
My full form guide for the event can be seen here but it would appear yet another successful Open Championship at Royal Liverpool is on the cards