Rory McIlroy came within two shots of a second Open victory at the Old Course 12 months ago and this week the Northern Irishman returns to the scene of one of his finest hours full of confidence after a dramatic success at the Scottish Open on Sunday.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club, better known as Hoylake after the Merseyside town which shares its name, last hosted the Open in 2014, when McIlroy went all-out attack, bombing his driver around a rain-softened track to claim his sole Claret Jug.
Nine years later, McIlroy should encounter similar conditions on his return to this storied links but his biggest obstacle could be a need to shake off almost a decade’s worth of Major scar tissue if he’s to justify Open favouritism on the Wirral.
While McIroy’s cavalier approach paid off in 2014, Tiger Woods employed contrasting tactics on a baked-out course in 2006, famously hitting just one driver all week as his precise iron-play laid the foundations for an emotional two-shot win over fellow American Chris DiMarco.
Those two renewals – the only two at Hoylake since 1967 – illustrate the role that the weather plays in links golf and they also show that this golf course, like most Major venues, tends to separate the very best from the chasing pack.
The Open predictions
The Open winner prediction – Viktor Hovland at 20/1
Jon Rahm has gone quiet and Hoylake might be too cramped for defending champion Cameron Smith, so the best bets come from slightly further down the betting with Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka taken to fight out another Major finish.
Like McIlroy, Hovland had every chance of winning the Claret Jug a year ago, finishing fourth having started alongside his Ryder Cup colleague in the final group, but that was his first test at the sharp end in Majors and he’s since played superbly in them this season, finishing seventh at the Masters, runner-up at the US PGA and 19th at the US Open.
He did not shirk the challenge at the US PGA, losing out only to some Koepka brilliance, then he played well at the US Open for someone who said that he didn’t particularly like LACC.
The Open tends to demand strong short-game skills and that’s the biggest concern with the Norwegian but his tee-to-green game is so solid and a 25th-placed finish in Scotland last week was a decent warm-up without ruining his price.
The Open eachway prediction – Tommy Fleetwood eachway at 22/1
It’s over three decades since an Englishman won the Claret Jug but there are a few potential candidates who could emulate Nick Faldo, including Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton, but the best of them could be local hero Tommy Fleetwood.
The Southport man was advised as the best bet at the Scottish Open last week, finishing in a tie for sixth, and his form both in this event and on links courses in general is difficult to ignore.
Fleetwood will be carrying a lot of hopes on his shoulders this week but he dealt with the pressure when runner-up at Royal Portrush in 2019 and was fourth at St Andrews last year. He has been driving the ball well and can make his presence felt.
The Open outsider prediction – Adam Scott eachway at 66/1
Collin Morikawa won the 2021 Open on debut but links pedigree counts for plenty and Adam Scott, who should arguably be an Open champion already, can make his experience count by contending for the Claret Jug.
Scott is one of the few in this field who has played two Opens at Royal Liverpool, finishing eighth in 2006 and fifth in 2014. While he missed the cut in the Scottish Open, PGA Tour form figures of 5-8-29-9-MC-19-MC from May onwards suggest that the sweet-swinging Aussie is a decent each-way option.
Build better bets with our free betting tips, predictions and accumulators, every day.
More betting news:
- 8 hours ago
- Bet Builders
- 1 day ago
- Free Tips