I can’t remember a year in the near past where so many, with so much talent converged on a major championship. With the return of Tiger Woods to the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, this could be the best field I’ve seen in one place since the days of Jack, Gary and Lee.
Of course, Phil Mickelson comes to Hoylake as the defending champion, but Tiger Woods beat Chris DeMarco here in 2006 for the first playing of an Open Championship at this venue since 1967. Tiger is coming back from back surgery almost four months ago, and Phil hasn’t had a top ten all year on the PGA Tour.
We’re not sure what we are going to get from Tiger this week, but whatever we get, the Television Networks and the press will take the attention the sport will garner. Phil played OK at the defense of his 2013 Scottish Open Title last week, but continues to struggle on the greens.
For the first time in ages, I am going to have to agree with Rob Bolton at PGATour.com, and put the 38 year-old Swede at the top of my list to win the 143rd Open Championship. After a slow start ot the 2014 season, Stenson is starting to hit his stride at right time. He finished in a four-way tie in his last outing in Germany where he lost in a playoff to Fabrizio Zanotti. At the start of the season I had picked Henrik Stenson to win his first major this year, and picked the Open Championship, or PGA as a place where it would happen. The winner of all of the money on both tours has had three top 3’s in this tournament, and all he needs to do now is take a Claret Jug home to put on his mantle.
They call Miguel Angel Jimenez the “Mechanic”, but after what I saw at TPC Sawgrass and Pinehurst this summer was the work of a mechanic, or magician. Kaymer went in the tank for a couple of years after his PGA Championship win at Whistling Straights but has been spot-on since making peace with his “Butter Cut” this spring. I think with the layout at Royal Liverpool, we will see more of the same technique we saw at Pinehurst. Miss the green, use the Texas Wedge, make a putt. It sounds easy, and Martin Kaymer can make it look easy.
Justin Rose has never had much success in this event, but after he slowly took over the field at Aberdeen last week, and put a second win on his resume in as many starts, I had to include him as a favorite to win his first Open Championship. He has never even come close to a win at his home National Championship, but he had never won two tournament in a row until last week. He is one of the best ball strikers on the planet, and will go as far as his putter will take him. The big question is, will it stay hot for a third outing?
After a T 8 last week in Scotland with the Phil Mickelson “win on a links course” method, and a T 2 at Pinehurst, it’s time for Rickie Fowler to take his new Butch Harmon swing to the next level. Royal Liverpool would be a great place for the youngster from Marietta, California to pick up his first major. 2014 has seen Rickie Fowler turn into a competitor when he plays in star-studded fields on the worlds best golf courses.
Come-on…! Tiger Woods is the best player on the planet when he has his game working. I know he didn’t have much at Congressional, but I would look pretty foolish if he were to come alive this week in Hoylake, and I didn’t have him on this list. Tiger is less than a year removed from winning thee tournaments last year. He still had that quirky swing, but was able to hit good wedges, and made some putts. Tiger and Phil are cut from the same mold, they can get up one morning, and everything goes in the hole. When that happens, they can be unbeatable.
I would have loved to put Adam Scott on this list, but the 2013 Masters Champ tends to avoid the really strong fields. His only win on the year came at The Colonial in a playoff with Jason Dufner against a field that was mediocre, to say the least.
The world’s number one player is in real jeopardy of losing his ranking this week if Stenson, Rose, Kaymer, or Jason Day were to win at Hoylake. He has avoided these guys in big European Tour tournaments, but now he is forced to put his ranking on the line.